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Thursday, 11 October 2012

How government websites use cookies

Government websites sometimes store small amounts of data on your computer called 'cookies' to remember if you've been to the website before. Cookies also help make government online services more easy to use.

Find out how government websites use cookies, and how to control which cookies get set on your computer or smartphone.

What are cookies?

Directgov and cookies

Cookies are small text files that websites save to your computer. The cookies used by government websites don't contain any of your personal information, and we can't use them to find out who you are.

A cookie often includes a randomly generated number which is stored on your device. Many cookies are automatically deleted after you finish using the website.


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How government websites use cookies

You can manage, control or delete cookies in your browser

Government websites use cookies and related technologies in several ways. Here are some examples:

Improving users’ experience of government websites

Government works to make sure that users of its websites have the best possible experience. This means that the user doesn’t have to repeat some actions unnecessarily. For example, if you increase the text size while you’re on a government website, a cookie that remembers your preferred text size might be set, so that when you go to another page on the site, you don't have to change your setting again.

Measuring websites’ performance

Government websites must demonstrate value for money in the delivery of information and services. Cookies support the monitoring by helping web teams to work out which pages are most useful to people, and to improve pages that people aren't finding useful.

A government website may also set a cookie on a user’s computer in order to monitor visitor numbers. No personally identifiable information such as your name or address is collected as part of this process.

Supporting the delivery of government services

Some cookies are necessary to ensure that the online government service works. For example, users of government services will often be required to enter some information. Cookies will make sure that the information that users have entered is remembered throughout that transaction.

Cookies are also used to remember information while a user visits a site. This might mean that information, such as a user’s postcode or address, only needs to be entered once during that visit. It will be automatically be filled-in for other forms or transactions.

For services that require users to sign-in, cookies are used to remember whether or not a user has already signed-in so that there’s no need to sign-in several times during a session.

Cookies are also used to prevent people taking part in a poll or survey more than once.

Supporting users’ sharing of information through social media

Sharing is a key part of how people access and use information. Social media networks are a popular way of doing this. To enable people to share government information in this way, some government websites will have functionality that allows this type of sharing.

The owners of these social media networks may place cookies on users’ devices and their use of these cookies will often be explained in their own cookie policies. The government has no control over these companies’ cookies policies. However, where possible, links to these policies will be provided so that users can make informed decisions about them.

Advertising

Some government departments use advertising to raise awareness of government services and information. Advertising agencies and their partners may also place cookies on users’  computers or similar devices.

These cookies are used in several different ways. Some of these cookies are used to target adverts based on people’s previous online behaviour, while others help advertising agencies determine the best websites to place adverts so that they are likely to be seen by those to whom the information will be most relevant. This information helps government to make sure its advertising is effective and providing good value for money.

For more information about third-party advertising cookies, and how you can manage them, visit the 'Your Online Choices' website.

How to manage your cookies

To find out how to manage what cookies you allow, see your browser's help section or your mobile phone manual. Or you can visit one of the non-government sites below, which have detailed information on how to manage, control or delete cookies. 

Related to this page

Directgov and cookies

How cookies are used by Directgov

Find out how Directgov makes use of cookies

Managing your cookies

About Cookies

Several non-government sites have detailed information on how to manage, control or delete cookies

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