This website is run by the Central Office of Information, the government's executive agency for publicity procurement.
This page contains details about how we deal with information from and about the general public users of this website. This includes information obtained from feedback forms and website log files, how it is used, and under what circumstances it will be shared with other parties.
- Other websites operated by or for COI
- Other government departments and agencies
- Any site that is linked from one of our pages
Recent significant changes to this policy
For version 4 - detailed information about the cookies this site uses was added
For version 3 - Data protection information replaced with a link to COI's Information Charter, which now covers this
For version 2 - following the introduction of Google Analytics code onto the site the section 'Information not collected by this website' of this policy was removed and the 'Cookies' section updated.
This policy was last revised in May 2011.
Changes to this policy
Please check this page regularly to ensure that you have the current information relating to privacy matters.
Information collected by this website
Information that is routinely collected by this website falls into two categories, feedback forms and website log files.
The website provides a feedback form to allow users to:
- Give general feedback about the site
- Report technical problems with the site
- Make a press/media enquiry
- Request a business contact with COI
- Make a Freedom of Information request
The information collected will be stored and used by the Central Office of Information chiefly for the purpose of fulfilling the stated service.
However, we reserve the right to use non-personal information for business, research and marketing purposes. In these cases the reuse of the information will not identify or be associated in any way with the individual who provided it and will not contain any contact information relating to that individual or their company.
For example, possible reuses of non-personal information may include (but are not limited to):
- A report made publicly available on the site listing all the Freedom of Information queries made in a given period
- An internal report produced for Central Office of Information staff listing any technical problems that have arisen with the website and steps taken to remedy them
- Marketing literature using quotes drawn from feedback given about the site
In most cases, the information provided on a form is entirely optional. General feedback and technical problems can be sent without having to provide a name or email address. However, contact details may be given if you would like to receive a reply.
Other forms only make sense if certain information is included; for example, a Freedom of Information request is only valid if a contact name and email address are provided. In these cases the required fields are clearly marked by the symbol.
Information collected from feedback forms is not stored on the website, but is instead sent to an email address accessible only by authorised Central Office of Information staff. However, these forms are not intended for the transmission of confidential or security-related material and should not be used for such.
Website log files
All websites produce log files that record the activity on that site. Log files record which pages on the site have been accessed and how many times. From this information it is possible to produce statistics such as how busy the website is, which pages are the most popular and whether there are any broken links.
Log files typically record the IP address and/or hostname of all users accessing the website. This allows us to distinguish between different users and therefore estimate the number of unique visitors to the website. IP addresses and hostnames are not linked to any individual's personally identifiable information.
Specific IP addresses and hostnames will not be made publicly available. They will only be used by website log file software to compile overall summary statistical reports on the performance of the website. (For more information about IP addresses and hostnames, see 'Additional information' below.)
Website log files are stored securely on the website using industry best practice methods for safeguarding information and server functions.
Depending on your browser's security settings, websites may be allowed to create and store small files called 'cookies' in a specific directory on your computer to help with the functionality of the site. Cookies cannot harm your computer in any way. Only the website that created the cookie can subsequently reuse it.
There are two types of cookies:
- A persistent cookie remains on your computer for a period of time to allow a website to recognise you when you return and present you with the appropriate customised pages
- Session-specific cookies are deleted when you shut down your browser. These are used on sites where you log in; the cookie ensures that you stay logged in throughout that visit
What cookies the Central Office of Information website uses are detailed below
Cookies for measuring site usage
Google Analytics sets cookies to help us accurately estimate the number of visitors to the website and volumes of usage. This to ensure that the service is available when you want it and fast.
|_utma||randomly generated number||2 years|
|_utmb||randomly generated number||30 minutes|
|_utmc||randomly generated number||when user exits browser|
|_utmz||randomly generated number + info on how the site was reached (e.g. directly or via a link, organic search or paid search)||6 months|
For further details on the cookies set by Google Analytics, please refer to the Google Code website.
Cookies for commenting on our blog
Wordpress sets cookies so that you don’t have to fill in your name and email address every time you want to comment on our blog and so you can see comments you made that are awaiting moderation.
|comment_author_[random number]||user name entered||<1 year|
|comment_author_email_[random number]||user email address entered||<1 year|
|comment_author_url_[random number]||user website url entered||<1 year|
|subscribe_checkbox_[random number]||"checked" or "unchecked" depending on user's wish to be notified of further comments on the article||<1 year|
IP addresses and hostnames
An IP address is the numeric address of a computer. The IP address recorded on website log files is the address provided by your internet service provider's equipment and not your own personal computer's address.
Hostnames are similar in appearance to the domain names you see in URLs and email addresses. The hostnames recorded on website log files are those of the internet service provider's equipment that you are using to access the internet, and not your own computer's name or location.
Your internet service provider will keep records of which customer is using any IP address or hostname at any given time, and so it is theoretically possible to trace back activity shown on any website log file to a specific individual. In practice, this can only be done with the explicit involvement of the internet service provider, and such a trace would therefore only take place in the event of serious criminal misuse of the internet and would be carried out by the police.
The Central Office of Information will not attempt to associate IP addresses and hostnames with individuals. In the event of serious criminal misuse of the website, the matter would be referred to the police for investigation.
The Data Protection Act 1998
The Data Protection Act requires us to protect any information we collect from you.
For details of the standards that you can expect from the Central of Information when we request or hold personal information about you; how you can get access to your personal data; and what you can do if you think standards are not being met, see COI's Information Charter.