Q&As

What are cookies and cookie consent in relation to advertising?

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Produced in partnership with Jude King of Facebook
Published on LexisPSL on 22/11/2017

The following TMT Q&A produced in partnership with Jude King of Facebook provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • What are cookies and cookie consent in relation to advertising?
  • What is a cookie?
  • Cookie consent
  • The law governing use of cookies
  • The e-Privacy Directive and the PECRs
  • Amended UK regulations

What are cookies and cookie consent in relation to advertising?

What is a cookie?

A cookie is a text file containing a unique piece of alphanumeric text. The publisher (in the case of onsite/first party advertising) or the ad network provider (in the case of an advertising network) will place a cookie on the web browser of a user’s device when the relevant advert is first viewed. It is important to note that a 'device' could be a computer, a tablet, a smartphone or any other internet enabled device, such as a smart-TV. See Practice Note: Cookies and ICO Guide to PECR: Cookies and similar technologies.

When a user, using the same web browser, visits the website for a second time, or visits another website within an ad network provider’s network, the publisher or ad network provider is able to access the same cookie on the web browser of the user’s device to recognise the user (or more specifically recognise the user’s device).

Cookies have different lifespans. Some cookies are automatically deleted when the user closes their browser. These are referred to as 'session cookies'. Some cookies stay on the user’s device for extended periods of time. These are called 'persistent cookies'. The lifespan of persistent cookies varies.

Most internet browsers offer the possibility to block cookies. Alternatively, users are able to manually delete cookies placed on their devices.

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