When you are browsing and click a link to go to another page, the browser would normally start from scratch because it knows nothing about what you have seen on the site already.
Cookies are small text files that are placed on your device to save information so that when you click on another page within a site the information about your browsing on the site can be built up. The idea is that this can improve your experience of the site as it gets to know you.
That is how this site uses them.
In general, cookies are used to retain user preferences, and store information for things like shopping baskets. Some cookies and provide anonymised tracking data to third party applications like Google Analytics.
It’s important to avoid the paranoia!
It’s easy to become worried about cookies, but as a rule, cookies will make your browsing experience better. However there are things that you can do…
You can get extensions for browsers that allow you to see what cookies have been set by a particular site. Cookie manager extensions are certainly available for Firefox and Chrome. They can be your way to know what particular sites are doing about your browsing experience under the hood.
You can also set most browsers to accept cookies (so that sites work) and then delete them all at the end of your browsing session (when you close your browser) to minimise longer term effects, if that is what you are wanting to do.
You may prefer to disable cookies, although the site may not work the same if you do. The most effective way to do this is to disable cookies in your browser. We suggest consulting the Help section of your browser or taking a look at the About Cookies website which offers guidance for all modern browsers.