What on earth are cookies anyway?

Cookies are small snippets of information (usually letters and numbers) that are placed onto your computer by a website. They don't do anything to your computer. They are simply bits of information that can be accessed at a later time by the website. Basically, they remember things. Some of them stay on your computer for as long as you are on the website. Others may be set to stay there for years.

What are they used for?

The vast majority of websites use cookies. Many cookies are simply there to help with the nuts and bolts of the everyday working of the website. For example, if you log in to PhonicsPlay, a cookie will remember that you have logged in. Without the cookie, you would have to log in for each and every members page that you wanted to use, this would get annoying very quickly!

Many websites also use cookies to get a picture of how people are using their website. SentencePlay uses Google Analytics for this purpose. It lets us get an overview of how our users interact with our site (how long they stay, which pages are visited most, which ones are rarely visited etc). This gives us a lot of information to help us to keep on improving the website but it doesn't give us any personally identifying information about you.

Some cookies are used to target advertising for you based on other websites that you have visited. This is known as interest based advertising or behavioural advertising.

Should we be worried about cookies?

Cookies are simply tiny bits of information and, in themselves, are not a cause for concern. As with any information though, concerns can arise around how that information may be used. Some people are concerned that so many tiny bits of information are being collected by large companies that it actually adds up to quite a lot of information.

Some people feel that this is all fine as long as none of the information is personally identifiable. Others actually like the fact that this information makes their online experiences more personalised. However, some people feel very uncomfortable that information is being collected and used in this way and consider it an invasion of their privacy.

How are cookies used on SentencePlay?

There are four main ways that cookies are used on the SentencePlay website.

1) Nuts and bolts cookies

These cookies make the website work. These are session cookies which means they only last as long as you are on the website. Cookie names: laravel_session, XSRF-TOKEN

2) Google Analytics cookies.

These cookies come from Google and help us to get a picture of how people use our website. They may remain on your computer for up to 2 years.

Google Analytics is software that collects information about users of websites.

What information is collected? - A wide range of data is collected including: your IP address (which may indicate which country and city you are in); details about the computer you are using (including your operating system, internet browser, Flash version, screen resolution etc); how long you stay on the site; the pages you visit; the sites you come from and exit to.

This information is NOT collected by Google Analytics - Your name, address, phone number, email address, credit card or banking details, or any other personally identifying information.

What do we use the information for? - The collected information is compiled into reports by Google. This allows us to understand how users make use of this site. E.g. Which pages are most and least popular? Where in the world users come from? How users find their way to the site? Which parts of the site users' computers are and aren't capable of accessing?

This is invaluable in helping us to improve the site.

How does Google use the data? - Google stores this information on servers in the United States. In addition to collecting the data and compiling reports for website owners, Google may transfer data to third parties where required to do so by law or where third parties process information on Google's behalf. Google will not associate your IP address with any other data that they hold.

Cookie names: _utma, _utmb, _utmc, _utmz.

If you do not wish information about your website visits to be sent to Google Analytics, you may download a plugin to prevent this. Google Analytics Opt Out Plugin

3) Google Adsense cookies (advertising).

These cookies come from Google and help to manage the advertising on the site for example by ensuring that we receive payment when adverts appearing on our website have been clicked. As far as is possible, we have chosen not to participate in interest based advertising. Our Google Adsense publishing settings are as follows:

"- Ads based on user interest categories are not allowed to show. Visitation information from my sites will not be used to help create interest categories."

"- Advertisers are not allowed to use their audience information to deliver more relevant ads to my site."

"- The use of +1 related features and social annotations in ads is not allowed."

However, it is quite likely that you already have interest based advertising cookies on your computer as they are widely used on many websites. The following links will help you to find out more:

Your Online Choices - If you would like to find out more about interest based advertising

Google Advertising Preferences Manager - If you would like to find out what interest categories google has identified for you.

Google Ad Preferences Plugin - To download a plug in that will let you opt out of Google's interest based advertising

Network Advertising Preferences Manager - If you would like to opt out of interest based advertising from other ad networks.

4) Amazon Associates cookies.

If you click on an Amazon product on our website, a cookie will record the fact that you came to the Amazon website form SentencePlay. This ensures that we receive commission if you go on to buy the product. This cookie will only remain on your computer for 24 hours. Once on the Amazon site, other cookies may be placed on your computer. For more information see Amazon's Privacy Notice and Amazon's Cookies & Internet Advertising Page

Taking control of your browser

Browsers such as Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Safari etc all have security settings that allow you to control whether or not you want to accept cookies on your computer. See your browser's help files for more information. These controls are changing and improving all the time.

And finally... A great cookie recipe

200g Softened butter

100g Soft brown sugar

100g Granulated sugar

1 egg

1/2 tspn Vanilla essence

225g Plain flour

1/2 tspn Bicarbonate of soda

Pinch of salt

200g Chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade. Line a baking sheet with non-stick paper.

Cream butter and sugar until soft and fluffy then beat in the egg and vanilla essence. Stir in the flour, salt, bicarbonate of soda and finally the chocolate chips.

Place teaspoonfuls of the mixture onto the baking sheet. Leave at least 10cm spaces between cookies (they will spread in the oven).

Bake for 15 minutes. Leave to cool slightly then transfer onto a wire cooling rack.