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Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Internet browser cookies - what they are and how to manage them

Some websites store small amounts of data on your computer called 'cookies' to remember if you've been to the website before. They also enable you to use online services more easily. Find out how you can control which cookies, if any, are stored on your computer.

What a cookie is

A cookie is a small amount of data sent to your computer or mobile phone from a website. This means the website can recognise your device (your computer or mobile phone) if you return to the same website.

A cookie often includes a unique identifier, which is a randomly generated number. This is stored on your device's hard drive. Many cookies are automatically deleted after you finish using a website.

Cookies are not programs and do not collect information from your computer.

Why do some websites use cookies?

Websites use cookies for a number of reasons. These are some of the most common ones.

Understanding what visitors to the website want to use and not use

Cookies are used to see how many people are looking at specific web pages. This can help organisations make their websites more useful.

Remembering your selections or preferences when looking at information, or using a service

Cookies can allow websites to improve the service you receive and archive what is not used. For example, you could tailor a news website's homepage to only show news from topics you are interested in. The cookie would 'remember' this and the website would present the information you want to see next time you return it.

Enabling you to complete a task without re-entering information you've already given before

Some services need to store a cookie in your computer for them to work. This includes services you can use on Directgov, like the Benefits Adviser and Schools Finder.

Managing which adverts you see on websites

Some websites use cookies to increase the relevancy of what is displayed. For example, care for babies and early infants may be extremely relevant, partially relevant or completely irrelevant to different people.

For more about this aspect of third party advertising cookies, and how you can manage the information you receive, visit the 'Your Online Choices' website.

How to manage your cookies

Cookies are sent to your browser by a website, and then stored in the cookies directory on your computer. Your browser may be Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Firefox, Safari or any other browser.

To check and update your cookies settings, you will need to know what browser you are using and what version of it you have. You can usually find this out by opening the browser (just as you do to use the internet), then clicking on 'Help' and then 'About'. This will give you information about the browser version you are using.

To find out how to allow, block, delete and manage cookies, follow the link below and select the browser you are using. You can also read your browser's built-in or online help for more information.

Mobile phones - rejecting cookies

For information about how to reject cookies on your mobile phone's web browser, see your handset manual.

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  • telling us what you think will help make sure we give you the very best service

Additional links

Online benefits advice

If you need advice on benefits, pensions and credits, see what you might get by using the online calculator

Jobseeker's Allowance online

If you need to apply for Jobseeker's Allowance, do it online at a time that suits you

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