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Fire and Flames cookies

So the chaps at the EU, having wrung out all they can from legislating on the size and shape of cucumbers, have now turned their eyes to new pastures, this time towards things called cookies. They sound like another type of food but they are not.

The EU would like websites using cookies (which is nearly all of them) to ask for consent before using them. Problem is that that would mean loads of tick boxes popping up for you to get annoyed with, when there are already too many popups. Luckily the UK ICO have a more sensible interpretation of this and, as long as the information about cookies is readily available, then implied consent to use cookies is a reasonable assumption - ie you do not have to go and tick a box as long as the information about cookies is easy to get to and easy to understand. So here is our readily available information about cookies. I have tried to make it all as easy to understand as possible and with as little use of jargon as possible.

The driving force here, I imagine, is that marketing companies can and are using cookies to track your long term browsing history. You know the ads for things you looked at a few days ago that appearing on various sites? That is an example of the use of Cookies in this context. Here I would have to say that I am not always entirely comfortable with their use and so some legislation is needed, perhaps a tweak to existing privacy legislation and not such a blanket policy? A good example I heard on Radio 4 was a for bald people - looking up information on baldness online then later bombarded with lots of ads for baldness cures which, aside from probably not working, they sure do not want to be confronted with every day.
We do not use cookies in this way.

A few explanations and definitions

So what are Cookies anyway?

Cookies are small text files which are stored on your computer. They are stored on your computer by websites to do various useful tasks. You can find out lots more about cookies here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HTTP_cookie Wikipedia uses quite a few cookies - if you want to see which ones then read the last paragraph on this page.

You will need to know what a Browser is

A browser is the software which you use to surf the internet. That might be Firefox, Google Chrome, Internet Explorer, Safari, Opera, etc.

What does 'we' mean?

When I write things like 'how do we use cookies' the 'we' means this website, which you are currently reading from, and of course we also refers to our business - which runs this website.

How do we use cookies?

We use cookies for managing Sessions

Cookies are really useful for keeping track of what is called a 'Session'. A session is how we know that you are you - which helps with shopping carts, logging in, etc.

Shopping carts

So for example when you add, say, one a moisture meters to the shopping cart it is a little cookie on your computer which tells our website 'hi website, I have something in my shopping cart from a few hours ago, please can you go and look it up for me and display the right stuff on the screen for me. Please don't display someone else's cart to me, and please don't forget that I have something in my cart'. This cookie is just a reference to your cart (a number), not a reference to personal private information.

If you log in somewhere on the site with a username and password then we would use a Session to let us know that you are logged in - which stops you putting in your username and password on every page which would be dead annoying.

Identifying that you have an existing reference on our system

We may also use a very simple cookie when you contact us so that we know you have done so already and, instead of making multiple references for you our systems can amalgamate everything under your original reference.

Site Analytics

We use cookies to help with site analytics - so tracking website hits, visits, etc. The actual cookie is just a simple number, not part of your personal information and analytics is mainly the gathering of information on average site hits and visits to see how people use our website - we are not really gathering information about your specific visit, who you are, etc.

We sometimes use Google Analytics. If you would like more information about their privacy and cookie policy then please see: http://www.google.com/analytics/learn/privacy.html

We are using Cookies in a totally normal and honest way

All of these uses of cookies are totally normal and everyday, and most websites you visit will be doing exactly the same. In fact we don't use cookies all that much - a lot of sites you use will have a lot more. We do not share your information with third parties.

Workarounds to cookies

There are workarounds to using cookies to track sessions but they are not elegant! With the workaround the pages you visit on the website would end up being very very long, so long that you would often not really be able to make good sense of them.

Cookies Expire or run out

Our cookies are set to expire and so after a certain amount of time your browser will delete them. This is how your browser is probably set up by default, but it is possible to turn this off in the settings (it is in Firefox anyway).

How to Turn off Cookies

If you are really troubled by cookies you should be able to turn them off in your browser, either totally off, or you may be able to be asked each time a site wants to store one whether you want to allow it or not.

Please be aware: if you just turn them off that lots of shopping carts and things you log in to will probably stop working. If you opt to be asked each time then expect lots of popups - personally I would get tired of these.

This is done differently in each type of browser - just type the heading of this paragraph plus your browser name. An example for Firefox which I use - because it's cool - would be to type in "How to turn off cookies Firefox" into Google. I don't promise that all browsers will give you exactly the options I mention above as I haven't checked them all.

How to view Cookies

You can also view the cookies currently stored on your computer and search through them by the website which they belong to. So to see any cookies on your computer go in to view your cookies and then type in the name of the website which would have made them and they should show up.
This is done differently in each type of browser - just type the heading of this paragraph plus your browser name. An example for Firefox again would be to type in "How to view cookies Firefox" into Google.