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Privacy and cookies policy

Last updated: October 21, 2023.

Quick summary

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

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


  1. What are cookies?
  2. How does use cookies?
  3. UK Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003
  4. EU General Data Protection Regulations
  5. California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA)
  6. Children's Online Privacy Protection Act
  7. Site statistics and server logs
  8. Email addresses
  9. Opting out
  10. How can you control your privacy?
  11. How can you find out more about privacy issues?
  12. Let me know

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 very 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. I explain how to do this below.

How does use cookies?

When you visit this website, cookies may be used to serve relevant personalized advertising, for social media, and, very occasionally, for short-lived tests of new website functions and features. Here's more...

Advertising cookies

When you visit this site, cookies may be set to serve personalized advertising.

Our site runs advertisements on most pages; it is a completely free website and if it didn't run advertising, it would simply not exist: the cost of web hosting alone for a site this big is now around £800/US$1000 a year. The advertising partners we work with use so-called "third-party" cookies to help them serve up relevant, targeted advertisements that they believe may match your interests, and they may share them with their own partner companies. has 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.

All the advertisements on this site are run through Google, which publishes a detailed explanation of how it uses information from sites or apps that use its services (including this one). Google has a detailed privacy policy, which tells you what data it collects, why it collects it, and how you can update, manage, export, and delete your information. Google also lists the advertising cookies that it uses, what they do, and how long they last. That page lists and explains the functions of any advertising-type cookies you may find in your browser associated with the domain (which will have names like gads, gid, FCCDCF and FCNEC). Just to repeat, those cookies are not set by our own pages but by the ads running on them; and they're used by our advertisers, not by us.

When you first browse a page on our site that includes advertising, you will see a pop-up message asking for your consent for the use of advertising and other cookies. You can opt in or out of this (consent or withdraw your consent) either before you read the page you've arrived on or at any time later on by scrolling to the bottom of the page and clicking on the link marked "Privacy and cookie settings."

You can also opt out of or adjust advertising cookies by visiting the sites (Europe) or

Analytics cookies

Most websites routinely use what are called analytics cookies to measure what visitors are doing—which pages they're looking at, which pages are most popular, how long people spend on the site, how quickly they leave certain pages, and even which bits of a page they're looking at most. The analytics code they use is typically supplied by Google or a rival company and the data it gathers is shared with those companies. Analytics is running all the time on these sites, tracking everything you do. Who knows what happens to it after that?

We deliberately don't do this: we do not run analytics code all the time. There is no good reason for doing so. Occasionally (maybe once every two or three years), we enable analytics to test a new feature on our site for a few days. Instead of using one of the third-party analytics options, we run Open Web Analytics on our own server, we don't share the data we gather with anyone else, and we delete whatever data is gathered at the end of the test. OWA is inherently more "privacy-friendly." The data we look at is aggregated (lots of people's data is merged together) and doesn't reveal anything to us about what you, as an individual, are doing. It just tells us how many people look at this page or that page, how long they spend on it, how many pages they view in total, and things like that—but not what any individual has looked at. Once our tests are complete, we switch off the analytics code and delete all the data. We also measure how people use this site with our server logs, which don't set or otherwise use cookies.

Social media cookies

We use a mixture of our own social-sharing icons and the Facebook "Like" button.

The social-sharing icons you'll see on our pages are simple, ordinary web links that don't track or trace you in any way. Although they look just like the official buttons, they're just images with simple HTML links out to Facebook, WhatsApp, and your default email program; they don't use any cookies.

Facebook "Like" button

Now Facebook (owned by Meta) has tightened its privacy and cookie-consent controls for users in Europe, we've put the "Like" button back on our site to help people remember our articles and share them with their friends. Please be aware that, depending on whether you are signed into Facebook, which country or region you live in, and how you have consented to cookie use, Facebook 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 Facebook is available to us: it passes directly between your computer and Facebook. If you'd like to know more and adjust your Facebook privacy controls, please visit the Meta Privacy Center

UK Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003

European Law requires that we inform European citizens of how this website uses cookies. We do this with a cookie consent pop-up that users see before they view any page that may set a cookie.

EU General Data Protection Regulations

As explained above, this website does not collect or store any personal information about you. It fully informs you about cookie use and allows you to consent to the use of cookies or opt-out of cookie use just as easily at any time. We have reviewed our legal obligations and believe the site is compliant with the EU GDPR, which is effective from May 25, 2018.

California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) does not collect, store, sell, or share any personal information about you and has no plans to do so in the future. However, in line with the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), you may still send us a "Do Not Sell My Personal Information" request if you wish. If you are in California, when you first enter a page on our site that shows advertising, you will see a message asking for your consent for the use of your personal information by our advertising partners. You can give your permission or decline to do so.

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 fully compliant with the US Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).

Site statistics and server logs

Like virtually every other server, this site's (Apache) server logs the IP address of visitors and the pages they look at. We run a general statistical package called AWStats to process the logs and show up daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly patterns and trends. This kind of server logging and aggregated analysis doesn't record any personal information about you or how you use this site: it simply shows general patterns about how many visitors the site has, which pages they look at, and so on.

Email addresses

I value feedback from readers very highly: I'm trying to improve this site all the time and your thoughts and suggestions are invaluable. If you send feedback or comments, I keep them and act on them, if that's appropriate. I give you the option of sending feedback anonymously, though (to prevent abuse), your IP address and computer hostname are sent at the same time, along with basic details of which browser, operating system, and so on that you're using (that helps me if you've commented about formatting problems, mobile-device usability, or things like that). If you do choose to send your email address, I may use it to send you a reply. I don't use it for any other purpose, I don't record it anywhere, and I don't retain it. If I send you a reply, I delete that promptly too, so there is no record of your email address anywhere on this web server or email server. When I store your feedback, I delete your name, email address, IP address, and host name; only your comments and suggestions are stored.

Opting out does not offer a way for you to opt-out of having your information collected or a way to remove your personal information from my records, 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.

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. Switching off third-party cookies usually causes no problems.

You could also try switching to a browser like Firefox or GNOME Web (on Linux), which block third-party tracking, or installing a browser add-on like Privacy Badger.

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, "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 me know

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

Please do NOT copy our articles onto blogs and other websites

Articles from this website are registered at the US Copyright Office. Copying or otherwise using registered works without permission, removing this or other copyright notices, and/or infringing related rights could make you liable to severe civil or criminal penalties.

Text copyright © Chris Woodford 2006, 2018. All rights reserved. Full copyright notice and terms of use.

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