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Privacy policy

Last updated: December 23, 2014.

We take privacy issues seriously—and yes everyone says that, but we really do. Here (in plain English) are full details explaining the careful steps we have taken to respect and protect your privacy as you use our website.

Quick summary

A general illustration of computer security: a padlock sitting on a computer keyboard.

Please read on if you'd like a fuller explanation—and for details of how to remove unwanted cookies from your computer.

Site statistics and server logs

Unlike many other websites, we don't obsessively run analytics software to track our visitors; occasionally we run Google Analytics for a few days to help us diagnose technical problems, but we don't have it switched on the whole time tracking everything you do. Instead, through our website hosting company, we run a general statistical package called AWStats to show up daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly patterns and trends. It doesn't log any personal information about you or how you use our site: it simply tells us general things about how many visitors we have, which pages they look at, and so on. Except when there are technical issues, we don't retain web server logs or the detailed information they contain, so the way you use our site is not tracked or traced.

What are cookies?

When you look at websites, text, graphics, videos, and other computer data moves from a web server (which stores the website you're looking at and "serves" it up to you) to your web browser (the program, such as Internet Explorer, Firefox, Google Chrome, or whatever you use to surf the Web). There is no easy way for a web browser to remember things about you as you move from page to page, which makes life difficult if you want to do something like putting a product in a shopping cart (trolley), select a particular size of text for the pages you're looking at, sign in to a website for a personalized experience, and so on.

That's where cookies come in. Cookies are small files that websites can store on your computer to help them remember things about you. Some cookies (known as session cookies) stay on your computer only for short periods of time (typically, until you close your browser); others, known as persistent cookies, may stay there for years. Some cookies, known as first-party cookies, are set by the websites you visit; others are set by services that those websites rely on (for example, advertisements, statistical tracking programs, social networking widgets and so on)—and they're known as third-party cookies. Cookies like this can be used to track a web user's progress as they move from one website to another, although they generally do so anonymously (they don't usually contain personally identifiable information). Nevertheless, the use of cookies does raise understandable concerns about privacy. If you are worried about this, you can set up your web browser to accept or reject certain kinds of cookies and you can inspect or delete the cookies it contains at any time. We explain how to do this below.

What cookies do we use?

Typical contents of the PHPSESSID cookie and when it expires.

We do not store any persistent cookies on your computer (or have access to information in any cookies that may be stored there)—but our advertisers and affiliate partners do so.

Although we do not use persistent cookies, our server may briefly store a temporary session cookie on your computer. Depending on which pages you're looking at, the server may store a simple cookie called PHPSESSID on your computer purely for the duration of your session. PHPSESSID is a technical mechanism that helps the server ensure you can browse our site efficiently when there are multiple people viewing the site at the same time. It's essentially a random string of letters and numbers (such as d711ec05cff822a2ceea5e486c62cb68) that the server assigns to you so it can remember you, as you hop from page to page, and not mix up your session with other people's. This is purely an internal server mechanism: we don't use this cookie to track you in any way whatsoever and it will expire and be deleted from your computer as soon as you close your web browser.

Photo: The typical contents of a PHPSESSID cookie: a simple random identifier (yellow). The cookie expires at the end of your session (red), which usually means when you close your browser.

However, some persistent cookies are also set by third parties when you visit our website. Our site runs advertisements on most pages; it is a completely free website and if it didn't run advertising, it would not exist. The advertising partners we work with use what are known as persistent, third-party cookies to help them serve up relevant, targeted advertisements that they believe may match your interests. Our partners assure us that these cookies are anonymous and do not use personally identifying information to serve advertisements to you unless you have specifically given permission for that. (Although you might raise an eyebrow at this use of cookies, we believe it is better that advertisers show you advertisements you might find interesting or useful than completely random advertisements.) We have no control over these third-party cookies. We do not see or have access to any information they may store or collect. They pass directly between your computer and the servers run by our advertisers.

At the moment, we run advertisements only through Google.

Third party vendors, including Google, use cookies to serve ads to you based on your prior visits to our website. Google's use of the DoubleClick cookie enables it and its partners to serve ads to you based on your visit to our site and/or other sites on the Internet. You may opt out of the use of the DoubleClick cookie for interest-based advertising by visiting Google's Ads Settings page. Alternatively, you can opt out by visiting The cookies of other third-party vendors or ad networks may also be used to serve ads on our site and you can opt out of these cookies too by visiting You can learn more about how Google safeguards your privacy by visiting Google's Privacy Policy website.

Social networking sites

Like pages on most other modern websites, most of the pages on our site now include links to social networking and bookmarking sites (including the Facebook Like button, Google +1 button, and Twitter Tweet button) to help people remember our articles and share them with their friends. Please be aware that, depending on how you are signed into these services, they might be using cookies to track websites or pages you visit. No such information is collected by our own site and none of the information that may be collected by social networking sites is available to us: it passes directly between your computer and the social networking site(s) you belong to. If you have concerns about the privacy implications of social networking bookmarks, please visit the privacy pages of the sites or services you use:

UK Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003

For users in the UK and the rest of Europe, we have carefully reviewed (and continue to review) our legal obligations under the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003 (revised May 2011), in line with guidance from the UK Information Commissioner's Office. We have done our best to provide clear information about privacy and cookies and to make it prominent on our website. We do not provide an option for you to consent to the use of cookies because our website does not store cookies. We are continuing to review the way our advertising and social-networking partners are responding to the changes in the privacy legislation and working with them in line with the guidance from the Information Commissioner that "The person setting the cookie is therefore primarily responsible for compliance with the requirements of the law. Where third party cookies are set through a website both parties will have a responsibility for ensuring users are clearly informed about cookies and for obtaining consent... It is therefore in both parties' interests to work together."

Children's Online Privacy Protection Act

As explained above, this site collects and stores no personal information from anyone—and that includes children under the age of 13. We believe it is therefore fully compliant with the US Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).

Opting out

We don't offer a way for you to opt-out of having your information collected or a way to remove your personal information from our records—simply because we don't collect any information about you!

How can you control your privacy?

Remember: you are in control: you can restrict the information that websites collect about you very easily at any time.

If you're concerned about cookies, you can change the options in your Web browser to restrict how websites can use them. You can switch off certain cookies, instruct your browser to keep them only for certain periods, or delete cookies altogether. You can set the level of privacy controls you want by looking under Privacy in your browser's options, preferences, or settings:

  • Internet Explorer (recent versions): Click on the gear icon on the top right. Look under Internet options > Privacy. Use the slider to control cookies and set the level of privacy you prefer.
  • Internet Explorer (older versions): Click on Tools. Look under Internet options > Privacy. Use the slider to control cookies and set the level of privacy you prefer.
  • Firefox: Look under Tools > Preferences > Privacy. (On some versions of Firefox, you'll need to look under Edit > Preferences > Privacy.)
  • Chrome and Chromium: Click on the spanner on the top right of your screen. Then look under Preferences > Under the Hood > Privacy > Content Settings > Cookies.
  • Safari (Macintosh): Click on the gear icon on the top right. Then look under Preferences > Privacy.
  • Safari (iPhone and iPod Touch): Click on Settings (the gear icon) from the iPhone/iPod Home screen. Privacy is near the top. You can either use Private Browsing to stop your browser remembering anything at all or selectively control cookies under the heading "Accept Cookies."
  • Konqueror (Linux): Click on Settings > Configure Konqueror > Cookies > Policy.

For other browsers, look up "Privacy" or "Cookies" in the user guide.

Please be aware that if you switch off cookies altogether, you might prevent some parts of some websites (such as shopping carts and personal preferences) from working properly or you might find yourself logged out of a website and unable to access it properly. One solution is to enable cookies only for those websites you know and trust (favorite shopping sites) and disable them for all other sites. Generally, if you don't log in to websites and you don't want to buy things or set website preferences, it is safe to switch off cookies altogether; if any websites do need to use them, they will usually display a message suggesting you switch them back on.

How to set the don't track option in the Firefox browser.

Don't track, private browsing, and incognito

Some modern Web browsers have other ways of improving your privacy. For example, if you look under "Privacy" in newer versions of Firefox, you'll find a simple tick-box option "Tell websites I do not want to be tracked." Sounds great! Unfortunately, as the privacy-friendly search engine DuckDuckGo has pointed out, "do not track" is an empty promise: it's entirely voluntary (and it doesn't stop tracking anyway), so it's much less effective than blocking or deleting cookies. Most of the common browsers also have a "private browsing" or "incognito" mode that stops any data from being collected as you move from page to page, but you probably won't be able to sign into websites if you use this option all the time. And you won't be completely incognito: your IP address will still be visible to and logged by any sites you visit.

Photo: You'll find the "Don't Track" option in Firefox under the Privacy options. You can also change the "History" setting underneath so Firefox deletes all records of your current session when you exit your browser.

How can you find out more about privacy issues?

These sites may help you:

For a more general look at privacy issues, you might like to look at the Electronic Frontier Foundation: Privacy page. You might also find Simson Garfinkel's book Database Nation: The Death of Privacy in the 21st Century interesting; though it's a little dated on specifics now, the basic issues haven't changed.

Let us know

We hope this answers any concerns you may have about privacy and reassures you that we take the issue seriously. If you have any further queries, please don't hesitate to contact us using our email form.

Please do NOT copy our articles onto blogs and other websites

Text copyright © Chris Woodford 2006, 2012. All rights reserved. Full copyright notice and terms of use.

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