Cookies and how we use them

Cookies and how we use them

What are cookies?

Cookies are small text files stored on your computer, created by web sites to improve functionality (such as remembering your preferred language), ease of use (remembering that you have logged in for the duration of your visit, rather than requiring a password on each and every new page you visit) or other purposes.

Cookies cannot spread computer viruses or access the contents of your computer. However, they may contain personally identifiable information.

How we use cookies

On the VSO websites we do not use any cookies containing any personal information (such as your name, email address, etc). Where cookies are used to identify you (when logging in), they do so with an automatically generated string of random letters and numbers (known as a session ID).

Our cookies fall into two main types: ‘strictly necessary’ cookies, without which we could not provide functionality directly requested by the user, and ‘performance cookies’, used to improve our site. Google Analytics, the cookies of the second category, does not collect personal information; rather, we look at aggregate data looking at how popular pages are, how long people spend on a page on average, and so forth, in order to target improvements to our site.

A more detailed breakdown of cookies created by VSO websites is provided below.

How to disable cookies

If you would prefer not to receive any cookies from us you can configure your browser to reject them. Where your browser is configured to accept cookies we shall take this as consent to use cookies as outlined in this document. Please note that blocking cookies may result in parts of our website no longer functioning properly for you.

For information on how to change your browser’s cookie settings, please refer to

Our cookies

Google Analytics

These cookies are set by Google Analytics. Data from Google Analytics is used on an aggregate, rather than individual, level to improve our site (e.g. streamlining or signposting a user journey which shows high drop-off). They therefore count as “Performance cookies”. Further information on GA cookies can be found at:

__utma Stores the amount of visits, the time of your first visit, the previous visit, and your current visit. It does not contain any personal information and is used only for analytical purposes. Expires in 2 years.
__utmb This tracks a single session (30 minutes). It does not contain any personal information and is used only for analytical purposes.
__utmc Used by an old version of Google Analytics but no longer set, this serves the same function as utmb, above.
__utmz Stores where you came from (eg. search engine, search keyword, link). Expires in 6 months.

Third party cookies

Where have content embedded from third-party sites (such as Facebook and Youtube), those sites may set their own cookies. The contents and lifespan of these cookies are not under our control. Please visit these sites for further information on their privacy and cookie policies, or visit for general information on controlling or disabling cookies.