What are website cookies?
Cookies are a key technology when it comes to tracking users and they are essential to the way targeted advertisement works. This short animation by The Guardian gives an overview of what cookies are and how they work:
You can find more information on how cookies and similar technologies work in the UK Information Commissioner’s Office guidance found online here.
Tools that can help you see cookies
Your browser will display the cookies on your computer. If you go into the ‘preferences’ or ‘settings’ and look for the Cookies section there will be an option to see or manage cookies and site data which will provide a list of all the cookies currently on your browser.
There are also browser plugins that can help you see information about the cookies added to your browser or your information is being sent when visiting a website. You can find a couple of examples below:
Lightbeam is a plugin for the Mozilla Firefox browser. It creates a visual map of the third party sites you interact with on the Web. This interactive map shows you the relationships between these third parties and the sites you visit. Find out more online here.
Attacat Cookie Audit is a plugin for Google Chrome browser. It creates a list of all the cookies that get added to your browser when you visit a website. This list will include information about which of these cookies are first party (those that send information to the website’s domain) and which are third party (those that send information to another company’s domain). Find out more online here.
To find out what cookies are running on your domain, you will need to clear your browser cookies and then use your website as you would expect any visitor to (e.g view lots of pages, watch embedded videos, submit information through forms). Once you have done this you can review the cookies now listed on your browser and use this to inform how you communicate to your website users how cookies work on your site.
If you’re using any themes or plugins which track visitors to your site through cookies, you’ll need to be upfront about this and seek their consent.