What are Cookies and Why do We Use Them?

Most websites you visit use cookies to improve your online experience—and we're no different. Essentially, they're small text files, stored in your browser or on your hard drive, that allow us to differentiate between you and all our other visitors.

There are many benefits to this. It means that every time you visit we can log you in automatically, and remember your preferences. Plus, we can keep you logged in as you move around the site and give you a personal experience.

We also use cookies to send you marketing messages that are suited to your needs and interests, and tips and suggestions that will help you with your discoveries. For example, we can let you know about new records that match your level of experience, and filter out messages that you've told us you don't want to see.

Cookies are often misunderstood. So, it's worth pointing out that they're not computer programs, and they can't be used to spread viruses. We hope that the information here helps you understand more about them (as well as dispelling some myths!).

Types of Cookies

Session cookies: These are only stored on your device (which may mean a desktop computer, laptop, tablet or mobile phone) during a single visit to the site (called a 'browser session'). They don't do anything unless you're actively browsing, and they're deleted as soon as you close your browser. Their most important benefit is that they let you move from page to page without having to repeatedly log into the site.

Persistent cookies: These remain on your device until they're set to expire, or you choose to delete them from your browser cache. They're activated each time you visit the website that created them. They let us remember you when you return, help analyse your behavior while you're on the site, and let us identify any problems. All the information is collected anonymously.

Flash cookies: Most people have Adobe Flash installed on their computers. Flash can store small files on your computer that are used in the same way as cookies. Flash cookies can also back up the data that's stored in other cookies. When you delete your normal cookies, Flash cookies aren't affected, unless you also delete them.

Third-party cookies: We work with some other companies for both advertising services and on-site functionality. These suppliers include TruEffect, Marin Software, Tealium, Omniture and other similar companies that may also set cookies on our behalf.

Sharing with other social networks: If you use buttons to share online content with your friends via social networks like Twitter and Facebook, these companies may set a cookie on your computer memory.

Find out more about these here:

You can find out more about cookies and get advice on discovering what cookies have been set and how you can manage and delete them at http://www.allaboutcookies.org.

What Cookies Do We Use?

We use cookies in the following categories:

Necessary: These ensure that your password works and you stay logged in when you move between pages on the site.

Site functionality: These help the site to remember details like what's in your shopping basket or how far you are through an order. They also keep you secure while you're logged in and help to ensure the site looks consistent during your visit.

Site performance: These collect information about how you use our site, such as which pages you visit and if you experience any errors. They don't collect anything that could identify you and we only use them to improve how our site works, understand what interests our users and measure how effective our content is.

Our performance cookies include:
  • Web analytics; provide anonymous statistics on how our site is used
  • Error management; help us improve the site by measuring any errors that occur
  • Site preferences; remember details such as how you've set up your home page, or the home person in your family tree

Targeting: 'Targeting' cookies (or advertising cookies) collect information about browsing habits. We use them to make sure our advertising and suggestions are relevant to you and your interests (you'll also hear this referred to as online behavioural advertising). We work with third parties who do this for us, although as you know, we rarely place adverts around our site.

We also employ a software technology called action tags (a.k.a. Web Beacons/Web Bugs), that help us better manage content on our site by informing us what content is effective. Action tags are tiny graphics with a unique identifier, similar in function to cookies, and are used to track the online movements of Web users. In contrast to cookies, which are stored on a user's computer hard drive, action tags gifs are embedded invisibly on Web pages and are about the size of the period at the end of this sentence. We may tie the information gathered by clear gifs to our customers' personally identifiable information.

We use clear gifs in our HTML-based emails to let us know which emails have been opened by recipients. This allows us to gauge the effectiveness of certain communications and the effectiveness of our marketing campaigns. If you would like to opt-out of these emails, please follow the unsubscribe instructions in each promotional email.

We use local shared objects, also known as Flash cookies, to display content based upon what you view on our site to personalize your visit. Third Parties, with whom we partner to provide certain features on our site or to display advertising based upon your Web browsing activity, use Flash cookies to collect and store information.

Flash cookies are different from browser cookies because of the amount of, type of, and how data is stored. Cookie management tools provided by your browser will not remove Flash cookies. To learn how to manage privacy and storage settings for Flash cookies click here.

Opting out of Cookies

We suggest you accept all cookies from our site, to get all the benefits we've outlined above. However, it is possible to manage your cookies using your web browser. Unless you've adjusted your browser settings, our system will issue cookies as soon as you visit our site. Remember, if you change your browser settings to block all cookies (including essential ones) you may not be able to access some or all parts of our site.

You can also set your browser to alert you every time a site sets a cookie. Each browser works differently, but here are instructions on how to manage your cookies, using all the browsers we support:

Internet Explorer: Click on the 'Tools' icon then select 'Internet Options'. Choose the 'Privacy' tab and move the slider to choose your settings. For more detailed privacy settings click on 'Advanced'.

Safari: Choose 'Preferences' from the Safari menu then select 'Security'. You'll see your Cookie settings and can choose your settings

Mozilla Firefox: Click on 'Menu', 'Options', 'Privacy' and then 'Cookies'. You can then choose your settings

Google Chrome: Click on the 'Tools' menu then select 'Options'. Choose the 'Under the Bonnet' tab and then the 'Privacy' section. Select 'Content settings' then the 'Cookie settings' tab and choose your settings.

Flash Cookies: For information on controlling the use of Flash Cookies on your computer, visit the Adobe website here: http://www.adobe.com/security/flashplayer/

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