Privacy and Cookies

What is a cookie?

Cookies are small text files that are placed on your computer by websites that you visit. They are widely used in order to make websites work, or work more efficiently, as well as to provide information to the owners of the site.

How do cookies work?

A website's cookies store information on your user device, which then gets sent back to that website each time you visit.  Sometimes this information is essential to access a website's functions - for example if you need to log in, a cookie will allow the website to recognise your log-in details. 

Cookies can also be used to build a profile of your activity on a website - which pages you visit, how long you spend on each page.  A website may then use this information to tailor the pages that you see when you visit the site in the future.

Do websites need permission to do this?

Yes.  The regulations which set out the rules on this changed on 26 May 2011.  Before that date, websites which used cookies had to tell you and give you the chance to opt out if you objected.  From 26 May 2011, websites must now get your active consent.  In other words, it used to be the case that cookies were permitted unless you objected.  Now, cookies are not permitted unless you agree to them

The regulations, known as the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations, are enforced by the UK Information Commissioner

Does the Scottish Parliament website use cookies?

Yes.  A list of the cookies used by the Scottish Parliament and their purpose is provided below.  

In general terms, we use cookies for two purposes: firstly, we use Google Analytics to gather information about how visitors use our website to help us improve its performance, and secondly, to improve the visitor experience when using the website by delivering pages more quickly or remembering user settings.  Additionally, videos on the website use cookies created by third-party providers such as Flash or YouTube.   

The information we collect is anonymous - it cannot be used to identify you personally. 

Can I control or delete cookies?

All recent versions of popular browsers (such as Internet Explorer, Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox) allow you to control cookies.  Typically, you can set your browser to accept or reject all, or certain cookies.  You might, for example, be happy to accept a cookie that allows you to log in to a website, but prefer to reject any which are used to build a profile of your internet usage.  You should also be able to set your browser to prompt you each time a cookie is offered. 

For more detailed instructions on how to control or delete cookies on different browsers, please visit www.AboutCookies.org

 

Cookies used by the Scottish Parliament website

Used by     File name Expires Purpose Further information
Google Analytics _utma 2 years from set/update These cookies are used to collect information about how visitors use our site. We use the information to compile reports and to help us improve the site. The cookies collect information in an anonymous form, including the number of visitors to the site, where visitors have come to the site from and the pages they visited.

An overview of privacy at Google

Use of cookies by Google Analytics 

  _utmb 30 minutes from set/update 
  _utmc On closing browser 
  _utmz 6 months from set/update 
  _utmv 2 years from set/update

Web applications
 ASP.NET_SessionId On closing browser The ASP.NET session state is a technology that lets you store server-side, user-specific data. Web applications can use this data to process user requests. How and why session IDs are reused in ASP.NET
Browser tabs TabsMemory  On closing browser Stores information in tabs within a browser page to speed up switching between tabs. More information on use of cookies within tabs 
Text-size style switcher CSSTextSize  After 30 years  When a user selects a text-size option using the style switcher, this will remain as their default font size for the duration of their visit to the site and all future visits to the site on the same machine.  More information about Text-size style switcher 
Flash  Adobe Flash Player Never Remembers user's settings. Flash settings help 
Flash JW Player  Never  Remembers user's settings. More about JW Player

YouTube

The Scottish Parliament occasionally embeds YouTube videos on its website.  We embed videos using YouTube’s privacy-enhanced mode. This mode may set cookies on your computer once you click on the YouTube video player, but YouTube will not store personally-identifiable cookie information for playbacks of embedded videos using the privacy-enhanced mode.

To find out more please visit YouTube’s information page on embedding videos.

How to turn off cookies

Users can set their browsers to accept or reject all, or certain, cookies. Users can also set their browser to prompt them each time a cookie is offered.

Opt out of Analytics

Google has developed an add-on for web browsers which allows users to indicate that information about a website visit should not be sent to Google Analytics.