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What is a cookie?

A cookie is a simple text file that is stored on a user's computer (or mobile device) that is created when a user visits a website using a program called a browser (for example Internet Explorer, Firefox or Safari).

A cookie isn't a program itself and doesn't actively do anything on a user's computer. A cookie cannot be used to identify a user personally but they do contribute to improving a user's experience of a website.

A cookie simply allows the website to read the contents of the cookie text file. The text file itself simply contains a unique identifier code; the site name and some digits and numbers. Why are Cookies used?

Most websites will use cookies in order to improve the user experience by enabling the website to 'remember' the user, either for the duration of the visit or for repeat visits.

Cookies do lots of different jobs, such as:

Remembering what items a user may have added to a shopping basket or an itinerary as the user moves between pages on a website

Saving a user's preferences to allow them to customise a website

Measuring what users do on a website to ascertain which parts of a website are popular, how long they spend on a website, how often users return, where they come from etc