They have been around since the days of the early web browsers. They simply make your web browsing more effective by remembering some preferences (e.g. your favourite location for weather), or your username for certain sites you log in to, they also allow organisations to see what pages work and which don’t. Many sites, like us, use a service called Google Analytics for this.
How they work:
Cookies are simply small data files created by a website on a user’s computer, or other browsing device such as a mobile phone or tablet. These files are stored on a user’s device.
Every time you connect to the Internet your browsing device is given a unique identifier called an IP address. However, most of this tracking is anonymous.
Our external website uses Google Analytics. This allows us to see: how many visitors we’ve had; the most popular pages; how long people are staying on the site; and, approximately where they are based. There is nothing that identifies you an individual. We can, however, ascertain facts such as the number of visits from a particular town or city such as London, Chichester etc.
Google Analytics creates four cookies on your computer. The following explanation comes from
The __utma Cookie
This cookie is what’s called a “persistent” cookie, as in, it never expires (technically, it does expire…in the year 2038…but for the sake of explanation, let’s pretend that it never expires, ever). This cookie keeps track of the number of times a visitor has been to the site pertaining to the cookie, when their first visit was, and when their last visit occurred. Google Analytics uses the information from this cookie to calculate things like Days and Visits to purchase.
The __utmb and __utmc Cookies
The B and C cookies are brothers, working together to calculate how long a visit takes. __utmb takes a timestamp of the exact moment in time when a visitor enters a site, while __utmc takes a timestamp of the exact moment in time when a visitor leaves a site. __utmb expires at the end of the session. __utmc waits 30 minutes, and then it expires. You see, __utmc has no way of knowing when a user closes their browser or leaves a website, so it waits 30 minutes for another pageview to happen, and if it doesn’t, it expires.
The __utmz Cookie
Mr. __utmz keeps track of where the visitor came from, what search engine you used, what link you clicked on, what keyword you used, and where they were in the world when you accessed a website. It expires in 15,768,000 seconds – or, in 6 months. This cookie is how Google Analytics knows to whom and to what source / medium / keyword to assign the credit for a Goal Conversion or an Ecommerce Transaction. __utmz also lets you edit its length with a simple customization to the Google Analytics Tracking code.
The __utmv Cookie
If you are making use of the user-defined report in Google Analytics, and have coded something on your site for some custom segmentation, the __utmv cookie gets set on the person’s computer, so that Google Analytics knows how to classify that visitor. The __utmv cookie is also a persistent, lifetime cookie.
If a website was a shopping centre, then these cookies would be like the systems that track footfall ie how many customers are coming and going.
Although you may not think it, the data we collect is really useful to use - we can tell what you like and what you don’t like, in turn helping us to improve your digital student experience with the Students’ Union.
We keep cookie data for 38 months – just over 3 years.
Why? In short, we know that the average degree programme is 3 years long, in 3 years the way we and the University operate will be very different – we don’t need to hold data on old/out of date pages. Finally, you all change year on year; the students of today are very different to the students we had three years ago, therefore we need to ensure we are operating in a manner to suit you, not the students of ‘yesterday’.
If you would like any further information please contact us