What are cookies?
Cookies are small files that hold information; they're placed or 'dropped' on your computer when you access websites or use apps on your device. The data contained in the cookie can be retrieved by the website or app that placed them there. They can also be accessed by websites or apps that have been authorised to use them by the site or app that first dropped them.
Some cookies only exist for a short period of time, and are then automatically deleted by your device. Others last for longer – these are called 'persistent cookies' – and some exist for years unless manually deleted. These can be used to analyse multiple site visits over time, or customise the content that's displayed.
First and third party cookies
Some cookies are set by the website or app you're visiting; these are called 'first party' cookies. Others may be set by a third party when you use a site or app – for example, by a tool built into the website, or by an advertising network that displays adverts on the site or in the app.
The AA and cookies
Read more about cookies on the site of the UK Information Commissioner's Office (who regulated data usage).
The AA app
Our app places cookies on your device, but there are less of them than the website. They're used to enable functionality, help us analyse how the app's being used, and for marketing purposes. The app also displays web pages from our website, or those of our partners, and these appear within the app. They drop cookies, as they would if visited through a normal browser.
The 4 main types of cookie we use on our site:
- Strictly necessary cookies
These cookies are essential – without them you might not be able to get the information or service you've asked for. They're needed for things like logging whether you see error messages – so we can make improvements and fix bugs – as well as allowing you to use shopping baskets (which remember your choices as you navigate our site) and make a purchase.
- Personalisation and testing cookies
These cookies remember choices you've made to personalise the site, or are used by us to test site content and functionality with different groups of visitors. They may remember where you are in the site so you can get tailored information, or changes you've made to help you browse, such as increasing the text size. For instance, if you ask for services based on your location, we sometimes store a cookie – meaning that next time you visit, you won't have to tell us where you are again.
Technologies we use for personalisation or testing include Sitecore and Maxymiser.
- Analytics and measurement cookies
We use several technologies to understand how visitors use our website or app. These help us to identify areas for improvement, and to collect and report on commercial data (like sales volumes). They include analytics tools that report numbers, and session capture tools that record videos of individual user sessions – following things like where you click on the page, place your cursor, and where you fill in forms. This data is kept secure and we only record what's typed into forms if really necessary. The rest of the time it's not visible in the recording.
We may, for example, analyse website usage and identify a page where people struggle to know what to do next; we'd then use session capture to observe some individual site visitors and find out what the issue is.
Other reporting tools we use support our efforts to prevent fraud and the abuse of our services; these also employ cookies.
Tools we use for analytics and measurement include: Google Analytics, Cognesia, HotJar and Decibel Insight.
- Targeting or advertising cookies
These cookies collect information about your browsing habits (including details of the websites you've visited), which we use to make sure you receive advertising relevant to you. We (or third parties and advertising networks on our behalf) may use them to show you ads we think you'll be interested in across the internet (including on other sites you visit), based on your interaction with our website, app and your browsing history.
This includes advertising that uses Online Behavioural Advertising (OBA). Third parties, such as advertising networks, work with websites and advertisers to deliver customised advertising based on the collection and use of your web browsing activity. This includes: pages visited, ads clicked, and products bought or researched. Ads that fall under this definition often have a blue triangle symbol in the top right-hand corner.
If, for example, you visit our website and show an interest in one of our products but don't buy it, we may re-target you with adverts about it on other websites – and in search results – for a number of days after your initial website visit. If you buy the product, or a set period of time has passed, the re-targeting advertising stops.
Tools and cookies we use for marketing and advertising include: Doubleclick, Google AdWords, Bing Adcentre, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon Advertising, and various display advertising providers.
What about links to other websites and their cookies?
We often link to other sites to give you extra information or services. Where these are provided by a third party, you may leave our website by clicking through to theirs. In this case, the cookies policy set out on the third party's website will also apply. As this won't be controlled by us, you should read their policy to find out what information is being collected and how it's used.
How to control cookies
You can restrict, remove or block cookies through your browser settings at any time. For more information about how to do this, and about cookies in general, visit Your Online Choices.eu. You can also opt out of some advertising-related cookies at Your Ad Choices, the NAI site and at Google.