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As the name suggests, this type of cookie is saved on your computer so that when you close it down and start it up again, it can still be there.

Persistent cookies are created by giving them an expiry date. If that expiry date is reached, it will be destroyed by the computer. If the expiry date is not set then it is automatically a session cookie.

The expiry date will normally be saved as the time the cookie was first created plus a number of seconds, determined by the programmer who wrote the code for the cookie. However, there is no real limit on the expiry date - so it could be set to be 20 years in the future. In addition, if you revisit the website that served up the cookie, it may automatically place an updated version on your computer - with a revised future expiry date.

If you login into a website, then shut down your computer, start it up again, and go back to the website to find you are still logged in - then it is using a persistent cookie to remember you.

Persistent cookies are also used to track visitor behaviour as you move around a site, and this data is used to try and understand what people do and don't like about a site so it can be improved. This practice is known as Web Analytics. Since Google started providing its own analytics technology free of charge to website owners, almost all websites use some form of it - although there are also paid-for services available to rival Google's.

Analytics cookies are probably the most common form of persistent cookies in use today.

However, persistent cookies can also, oddly, have a shorter life span than some session cookies, as they can be coded to be destroyed within a second or two of being set, whereas a session cookie will always last until you close down your browser.

Secure Cookies

Secure cookies are only transmitted via HTTPS - which you will typically find in the checkout pages of online shopping sites.

This ensures that any data in the cookie will be encrypted as it passes between the website and the browser. As you might imagine – cookies that are used by e-commerce sites to remember credit card details, or manage the transaction process in some way, would normally be secure, but any other cookie might also be made secure.

HTTPOnly Cookies

When a cookie has an HTTPOnly attribute set, the browser will prevent any client script in the page (like JavaScript) from accessing the contents of the cookie.

This protects it from so-called cross-site-scripting (XSS) attacks, where a malicious script tries to send the content of a cookie to a third party website.

How to Manage Cookies

Almost all modern browsers provide ways for you to control how your computer handles cookies. This includes the ability to block all or different types of cookies – and preventing them from being placed on your machine in the first place. They also enable you to delete the cookies that you already have. However each browser is different – and some offer more fine-grained control than others, or at least control that is easier to find. Anyone wishing to take better control over their online privacy would be well advised to spend some time familiarising themselves with the controls in their browser. However, below we provide a bit of an overview for the most common browsers.

Browsers are of course found on smartphone and tablets as well as traditional computers. Generally speaking smartphone browsers do not provide anywhere near the level of functionality in respect of cookie controls that ones on your PC or laptop do. However this is changing quickly so it is worthwhile trying to find out what controls you can make use of.

Google Chrome

Google Chrome provides quite a good level of control over cookies. These can be found under the ‘Settings’ menu, which you can get to by clicking on the spanner icon in the top right hand corner.

Under ‘Advanced Settings’ you can find a section dedicated to Privacy, which includes being able to clear your browsing history – which has several settings options, including deleting all your cookies.

You can also use Chrome to send a ‘Do Not track’ signal to the websites you visit.

However, the ‘Content Settings’ button also gives access to further controls including the ability to list all cookies and delete them individually. This list also includes HTML5 local storage and databases that modern sites sometimes use instead of cookies.


With Firefox you get to the cookie settings by clicking in the menu box in the top left hand corner and selecting ‘Options’. On the pop-up, then select the ‘Privacy’ icon.

With Firefox you can tick a box that tells every website you visit that you do not want to be tracked. This functionality is known as Do Not Track (DNT), however there is no guarantee at the moment that a website will respect that request – and there are no legal requirements for them to do that.

You can also set your preferences for what Firefox will record of your browsing history, including the way it treats cookies. For example, you can choose to accept third party cookies, but have them deleted when you close the browser. Like with Chrome you can also see a list of all the cookies saved and either delete them all or delete just the ones you don’t like.

More recently, the Mozilla foundation have announced that newer releases of Firefox, most likely from June 2013 onwards, will block third party cookies by default.

Internet Explorer

In most recent versions of Internet Explorer you select the cog icon in the top right corner, choose ‘Internet Options’ from the drop down menu, then select the ‘Privacy’ tab in the pop-up that appears.

IE uses a slider control which you can use to select different levels of privacy, although you can also select the ‘Advanced’ button for a more custom setting for allowing or blocking first and third party cookies.

It also enables you to create lists of sites where you always want to allow or block cookies. However it does not give you the ability to list the cookies you have, or selectively delete them, through this menu.

To do that – you have to use the ‘Developer Tools’, which you can get to either from the cog icon, or by hitting the F12 button on your keyboard. Then select the ‘cache’ menu and view or clear cookies options in the drop down. The problem with this is that have to be on the site in question to do this, and it is not particularly user friendly – most people would be put off by the idea of using the developer tools, because they are not developers!

Under the Internet Options>General tab you also have a tick box that you can set to delete your browsing history when you shut it down. Ticking this will mean all your cookies are deleted when you close your browser.

From Internet Explorer 10 onwards, Microsoft introduced Do Not Track functionality. This will usually have been switched on by default when the browser was first installed. To check your own settings, go to Internet Options>Advanced. Scroll down to the Security Settings, and there you will find a tick box labelled ‘Always send Do Not Track header’. If you tick or un-tick this box, you will need to re-start the browser for the change to take effect.


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