You are reading one of the very, very, few websites in the world that fully complies with the law regarding ‘cookies’.
The author of this page is both an English barrister, and an experienced software engineer. That means that I am qualified to bore you about two subjects! (Actually, I can bore you on many more than 2 subjects, but only 2 are herein relevant, as we lawyers say.)
Cookies are tiny and harmless bits of data that a website leaves on a visiting computer or similar device.
There is a very good and sensible reason for this. We like to count our visitors, and also like to know who are new first-time visitors, and who are repeat returning visitors. To do this, our website leaves a cookie to mark a computer as having visited the website. [More technical details about cookies are at the bottom of this page.]
Thank you for reading this. If anybody at all has really read it, please send a tweet to @BigGoodJohn so that I will know that I did not live in vain!
Cookies – Technical details
This section is not actually necessary. I will finish it as a penance whenever I do something awful, like leaving the lid off the honey jar. (See? I really am a software engineer. We prefer writing for compilers.)
Computer cookies are named after the US sweet baked goods. They are what the UK calls sweet biscuits. You could break millions of cookies in half, but only the 2 halves from each individual cookie would match. In the same way, half-cookies on a website will only match half-cookies on a computer that the website has seen before.
Legislation in detail
This section is not actually necessary. I will finish it as a treat whenever I do something praiseworthy, like helping a hedgehog across the road. (See? I really am a lawyer. Only a lawyer could have fun waffling on about convoluted regulations.)
The key legislation in the EU is Directive 2002/58/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 12 July 2002 concerning the processing of personal data and the protection of privacy in the electronic communications sector (Directive on privacy and electronic communications).
This is commonly referred to as the “ePrivacy Directive” for short.
In this Directive, Article 5(3) states: “Member States shall ensure that the use of electronic communications networks to store information or to gain access to information stored in the terminal equipment of a subscriber or user is only allowed on condition that the subscriber or user concerned is provided with clear and comprehensive information in accordance with Directive 95/46/EC, inter alia about the purposes of the processing, and is offered the right to refuse such processing by the data controller. This shall not prevent any technical storage or access for the sole purpose of carrying out or facilitating the transmission of a communication over an electronic communications network, or as strictly necessary in order to provide an information society service explicitly requested by the subscriber or user.”
In the USA, the FCC has a functionally identical rule for government departments and agencies. FCC is short for the Federal Communications Commission. This agency regulates interstate and international communications by the internet, and is the United States’ primary authority for communications laws, regulation and technological innovation. Insofar as nearly all USA websites are visible to the whole globe, they fall under the FCC’s jurisdiction.