Website Cookies

A website cookie is a piece of text that a web server can store on a user's system for later retrieval. For example, a web site might generate a unique ID number for each visitor and store the ID number on each user's machine using a cookie file.

Your web browser will have options to show you all the cookies stored and will allow you to delete some/all of them as you wish.

Cookies may be

  • fundamentally necessary for the delivery of the web service you are using, e.g. enable tracking of items in an online shopping basket or to enable session tracking for a service that you log in to,
  • may be necessary to benefit from the full functionality of the service, but not essential for some level of service,
  • may be for the benefit of the service provider or to allow the service provider to better understand its users and hence provide a better service, e.g. analytical tools so a site can produce statistics on the types of users it has or the sections of its site that are most popular

but could equally be for a wide range of other purposes.

This page aims to outline where and why cookies are used on web services provided by the Mathematical Institute.

The Mathematical Institute provides its members access to a number of web services using departmental accounts. When an individual obtains such an account they sign up to the IT rules and policies of the department at which point they are also consenting to the use of cookies within these services where the cookies support features of the service or broad analytical analysis to help provide a better service (e.g. website usage statistical analysis).

Below are two cookies used on the unauthenticated sections of the departmental websites before you agree to the cookie policy. These cookies are essential for the operation of the site:

Cookies set by this website

  • Drupal (has_js) - this cookie is set by the departmental website system (which uses the Drupal content management system). The cookie records whether the user has javascript enabled which can help the site present information appropriately.
  • Drupal (SESS...) - this temporary session cookie is set by the departmental website system (which uses the Drupal content management system). This cookie is deleted as soon as you close your browser. In June 2012, European data protection authorities (as part of the Article 29 Working Party) adopted an opinion which clarifies that this type of cookie might be exempt from the requirement to gain consent.

Third Party Cookies (not set until the user agrees to the cookie policy)

  • Google Analytics (__utma, __umtb, __utmc, __utmv, __utmz) - these cookies are created by the departmental sites for use with google analytics. The cookies record information about the first visit to the site, the last visit to the site, the number of visits to the site, duration of site visits, the link or search terms used to get to the site.

In general the cookies relate to the various standard web service products the department used and hence are part of the way those products are currently designed to work and for which there is no option (beyond reworking the product code ourselves) to change the way the product uses cookies.

Under the most recent legislation website should obtain explicit consent from a user before using a cookie. Ideally this would be done as a browser feature which produced a warning when a site wished to save a cookie giving the user the option to accept or deny it. However, such browser functionality is not yet generally available. Hopefully browser technology will catch up with the law enabling sites to automatically satisfy this condition or if not web service products will evolve in order to provide the opt in consent process before a cookie is saved. In the meantime the Mathematical Institute website will display a popup informing the user of our cookie policy. By clicking any further link on the website you agree to these cookies being set.