The National Audit Office

Cookie policy

In common with many other websites, the NAO website sometimes stores small amounts of data on your computer when you visit our site to remember if you've been to the website before.

This is done by saving small data files known as “cookies” on your machine. Cookies are very important to help us make online services easier to use, to monitor the use of our site and to help improve the service to you.

Below the listing of cookies is an explanation of what cookies are and why and how they are used by the NAO. It also explains how you can manage cookies if you have concerns about their use.

Managing cookies

At National Audit Office, your use of our site is important to us and we feel the cookies that we use help to enrich your visitor experience. It is our intent to make sure that you are happy with the information we provide, so that you continue to use our site. Cookies set across our site, by ourselves or partners, can be session or persistent cookies and may be set by different technologies, such as JavaScript or Flash. If you would like to 'opt out' of the cookies set by our site, this can be accomplished subject to browser settings. Please note, you may reduce site operation or functions if you limit the cookies.

If you have any questions, require additional clarification around our use of cookies or wish to discuss how we are embracing online privacy, please email us at webmaster@nao.gsi.gov.uk.

For further information on cookies in general, please request a copy of the 'managing cookies guide' from Cookie Reports Ltd.

Cookies found on this site

To ensure that you are fully informed of all the cookies we are using, our site is independently audited by Cookie Reports Limited - the last review was on 24 Jun 2014.

The cookies in use are organised by category to help you identify them and support your informed choice.

Necessary cookies – 0 found

These cookies are important to the underlying operation of the website, supporting important functionality such as shopping baskets and the technical operation of the website to ensure it performs how you would expect.

Site experience cookies – 5 found

These cookies are used to support your experience on the site and include user-selected options, site navigation aids, etc. Generally, no personally identifiable data is collected with these types of cookies.

Name of cookieExpiry periodPurposeCompany

Performance & operation cookies – 35 found

These cookies are used in the management of the site and include customer surveys, recording visitor numbers and other web analytics. Limited identifiable data may be collected.

Name of cookieExpiry periodPurposeCompany

Marketing, anonymous cross site tracking cookies – 33 found

These cookies are used to track our visitors across our websites. They can be used to build up a profile of search and/or browsing history for every visitor. Identifiable or unique data may be collected. Anonymized data may be shared with third parties.

Name of cookieExpiry periodPurposeCompany

Marketing, targeted advertising cookies – 11 found

These cookies are used to track browsing habits and activity. We use this information to enable us to show you relevant/personalised marketing content. Using these types of cookies, we may collect personally identifiable information and use this to display targeted advertising and/or share this data with third parties for the same purpose. Any activity tracked and recorded using these cookies maybe sold to third parties.

Name of cookieExpiry periodPurposeCompany

Detailed information on all of the cookies in this policy can be downloaded separately.

Use of Flash files

Across this website we can make use of Flash files. These files present information, allow integration with third parties (such as YouTube) and can offer a richer online experience. Flash files can however store cookie-like data on your computer, known as "Local Shared Objects".

We have strived to identify any Flash elements that are likely to set cookies but, at this point in time, we cannot guarantee the status of every Flash file. Adobe offers a tool to monitor, prevent and remove "Flash cookies" — Global Storage Settings panel.

About cookies

Site owners want to make their sites useful and easy to use. Many websites often offer some level of interaction – for example sending messages, buying goods or choosing how you wish to view the site.

The World Wide Web was originally designed for the display and sharing of scientific papers, not to support the sort of services and sophisticated sites people expect on the Web today. To deliver the experience users expect, modern websites need the support of additional technologies. This includes “cookies”.

A website without cookies cannot recognise you as a visitor or remember anything about your preferences. As soon as you navigate to another page a website will forget about your visit and treat you as a new visitor. This makes it extremely difficult for a site to provide online services and a seamless browsing experience or to monitor how the site is used in order to improve it.

Cookies are used to overcome this problem. A typical way a cookie might be used on a website is to support statistics collection. Most websites try and measure the number of visitors and the times a page is viewed to help manage the site and improve the service. To do this, it is helpful to be able to recognise that views of a page are being made by the same visitor.

How cookies help

The first time you visit our site, a cookie is created and saved to your machine, perhaps containing a randomly generated number.
As you move around our site from page to page, the random number is used to work out that you are still the same visitor and our statistics can then count the pages you visited and treat the views all as a single visit by a single visitor. We cannot identify you personally through this process.
The next time you visit the site, the number in the cookie can be read again and once again your visit can be recognised as a unique visitor and that you are a repeat visitor.

The above is one example of why cookies are useful but cookies are used to support all manner of services. For example, cookies can help improves services by:

enabling a service to recognise your device so you don't have to give the same information several times during one task
recognising that you may already have given a username and password so you don't need to do it for every web page requested
distinguishing website visitors from one another so it is possible to measure how many people are using services, so they can be made easier to use and there's enough capacity to ensure they are fast
analysing anonymised data to help us understand how people interact with services so they can be made better

The description above is very general and brief; if you want to understand the purpose and functioning of cookies in more detail and how to manage them, this article Internet Browser cookies- what they are and how to manage them is useful.

Privacy and Security of cookies

Cookies are very important for the functioning of websites and it is quite difficult for website owners to provide sophisticated services without them.

However, some people worry about the privacy of cookies and the way the information in them can be used.

One of the biggest concerns surrounds the use of online behavioural advertising (OBA).

Many websites are funded by advertising. With OBA, as a user moves from site to site browsing the web, instead of seeing a random collection of advertisments, they may notice the advertisments they see seem tailored to them. For example, someone may look up details of say a skiing holiday on a travel site, then go to a fast food site to order a pizza. On the fast food site they might be surprised to see advertisments for skiing trips. Almost certainly they are being served targeted advertising.

The way OBA works is by collecting information about browsing habits and using this information to drive the tailored advertisments. Cookies can play a part in the collection of this information. This is the most common reason for people rejecting or fearing cookies.

In the UK, the law recognises these concerns and requires website owners to fully disclose the use of cookies and to seek consent for their use. We have developed a cookie policy that explains the use of cookies on the NAO site and includes an independent audit of the cookies in use. It also explains how to manage or disable cookies.

Our use of cookies

The NAO uses cookies for a number of purposes relating to managing the site and improving the service to users. This policy describes the NAO website’s use of cookies and explains how they are used to improve the service our site provides. It also explains how you can withdraw consent and block the use of cookies if you wish to do so.

Cookie types

Cookies fall into two general types:

Session cookies - they last only as long as you are visiting the site.

Most session cookies are background housekeeping cookies needed by the webserver to make the pages work.

Persistant cookies - they are saved to your device when you leave and last until a specific expiry date.

Most of our persistant cookies are used for analytics purposes to count visitors, record repeat visits and generally measure use of our sites so we can improve the service.

Why we use cookies

We will not use cookies to collect personally identifiable information about you. We do not sell commercial advertising space on our sites nor are we partnered with advertising companies to pass on information to help them profile visitors for targetted advertising.

Our cookies help our website recognise your computer or device when you return to our site, or as you move from page to page within the site. We use this information to produce statistics about the use of our site and other housekeeping activities such as managing online surveys. Our cookies also support the routine operation of the site by managing session IDs.

See the independed cookies audit report above for a list of the cookies on our site and what they are used for.

If you have any further questions, would like any further clarification around our use of cookies or wish to discuss how we are embracing online privacy, please email us at webmaster@nao.gsi.gov.uk.

How to control and delete cookies

If you are uncomfortable with the way we use cookies, you may wish to restrict or block our cookies. You can do this by changing your browser settings.

Different browsers use different methods for managing cookies. The ‘Help’ function within your browser should tell you how.

The www.aboutcookies.org website contains comprehensive information on how to do this on a wide variety of browsers. You will also find details on how to view the contents of cookies already on your computer, how to delete cookies from your machine, as well as more general information about cookies.

If you are worried about cookies and you'd like to learn how to remove cookies set on your device, visit: http://www.aboutcookies.org/Default.aspx?page=1‘Our use of cookies’

The impact of blocking cookies

Please be aware that restricting cookies may impact on the functionality of our website. Many of the interactive functions offered by websites are dependent on cookies and disabling or blocking cookies can prevent these services from working or reduce their usefulness.

If you chose to block our cookies and later change your mind, you can easily re-enable cookies at any time. Again, your browser help or the aboutcookies.org site should help you with this.