Cookies: What are they?
A cookie is a unique string generated by the website server that your browser will store as a file and send back to the server with all subsequent page requests or form submissions. This enables the server to 'maintain state'. If a user is to be able to log in (eg to access pages only available to members of the site) or if a user adds an item to a shopping cart, it is nessesary for the server to know that the browser now requesting a members only page or the cart checkout page, is the same browser that logged in or added the item to the cart.
Two types of cookies can be issued by the server, session and persistant. Session cookies are deleted automatically by the browser when it closes but persistant cookies are saved until their expiry date unless they are manually deleted. Persistant cookies can be used to link sessions together whilst session cookies can only link pages visited within a session.
Can cookies be used to track users?
As cookies can link together pages a user visits, an overall 'picture' of user behaviour can be garnered. However this process is anonymous. Unless you become a site member or place an online order, your IP address is the only thing a website can know about you. The IP address can tell the website which country the user is in and even which town, but it cannot be used to determine WHO the user is. Only the telephone companies know who was using any given IP address at any given time and in general, only the police and intelligence services have the legal powers to demand this information from the telephone companies.
Other tracking means
Cookies are not the only method by which browser activity can be tracked to link page visits and thereby profile user behaviour. The IP address also serves this purpose although less reliably. If the IP address is dynamic it will tend to survive a session but cannot be relied upon to survive the period between sessions. Cookies were invented as a means to solve this problem.Other tracking methods involve embedding codes within the URL of a page and any links within the page. All these forms of tracking achieve the same objective so websites should state exactly how cookies are issued, stored and used, how IP addresses are stored and used, and if any other tracking mechanisms are deployed.
Our Cookie/IP tracking Policy
This website is deployed using HadronZoo::Dissemino. This is open source public domain software available from http://www.hadronzoo.com as part of the HadronZoo Suite comprising inter-alia, the Dissemino program and the HadronZoo C++ Class library upon which Dissemino is entirely based. The behaviour of Dissemino can be determined by from the source code. This code can be altered of course but not without the knowledge of the site vendor. At MMCP, we are running Dissemino in its original form.
Dissemino uses the IP address to determine the country or state of the user but not the town. The IP adresses are stored and against each is a count of visited page type, not the pages themselves and not the visit sequence. The logfiles could reveal this information but logfile analysis software would be needed to link page visits. At MMCP we do not possess or have any intention of aquiring any such software.
Dissemino will issue a maximum of one cookie at the point where a page marked for cookie issue is requested. The recomemdation made by HadronZoo is that pages that are marked as publicly available (not requiring a login with username and password), should not issue a cookie. Only where a user applies for membership, logs in as a member or adds an item to a shopping cart, should a cookie be issued. At MMCP we have fully followed these recomendations.