Cookies are simple text files which your browser stores on your computer or other device. You’ve probably got hundreds of them, several from each website you visit.
They enable websites to recognise you when you return and as you move around from page to page in their site. They might hold information such as a unique id, your name, when you last visited, how far you got through a process, what information you are interested in. They enable much of the magic of the web (they used to be called magic cookies). Importantly, they can do your computer no harm.
Because it’s the law. Since May 26th 2012, it is a legal requirement that all online service providers get consent for all but a few uses of cookies. This is intended to put web users in control of where their data is shared or used for targeting. You’ll be seeing a lot of this on the web.
Find out more about the EU Privacy Directive and cookies from the ICO.
Honestly – they pose no threat to you – but if you really don’t want them you can turn off cookies in your browser (this will prevent all cookies from all sites).
We can help! We’ve helped numerous major online providers develop their strategy and user interface for responding to the EU Cookie Directive. We’ve developed this solution as appropriate to our users and our services. The right solution will be very different for other sites. Contact us if we can help you with this or any similar gritty design challenges.