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Frequently asked questions on Cookies

What is a Cookie?

A Cookie is a computer text file sent to a visitor's Web browser (the software used to access the Internet such as Internet Explorer and Netscape) by a Web server (the computer that hosts the Web site) in order to remember certain pieces of information. This can be a convenience for both Web site visitors and operators because it can be used to reduce the amount of time to input and process the same information each time a Web site is used.

Information stored within a Cookie can be read only by the Web server that originally sent the Cookie, not by other Web servers.

Typically, a Cookie comprises:

  • a name for the Cookie (chosen by the Web site you are visiting);
  • a value (unique number for the Cookie) (determined by and stored by the Web site for future recognition and action);
  • an expiration date;
  • a valid path (details about the Web page(s) that the visitor was on when the Cookie was sent);
  • a valid domain (the name of the Web site that created and can retrieve the Cookie);
  • a secure connection requirement (if the Cookie is marked "secure," it will only be transmitted if the visitor is connected to a secure Web site.

Are there different kinds of Cookies?

There are two types of Cookies.

Session Cookies: These Cookies reside on the Web browser and have no expiry date. They expire as soon as the visitor closes the Web browser. Session Cookies remember information only for as long as the visitor operates the Web browser in a single "session" (or "sitting"). 

Persistent Cookies: These Cookies have an expiry date, are stored on a visitor's hard drive and are read by the visitor's browser each time the visitor visits the Web site that sent the Cookie. It is possible for the Web site that created the Cookie to extend the expiry date without notice to the visitor. They will remain there until the set date has expired or until the visitor has deleted the file. 

How will you know when a Transport Canada site is using Cookies?

It is the policy of Transport Canada to inform you when Cookies are being used on a Transport Canada Web site. You will find this information by clicking on the Important Notices link at the bottom of Transport Canada Web pages and linking to the "Privacy Notice."

In addition, each time a persistent Cookie is used, you will be informed before providing any information stored by that Cookie. These are called "Privacy Notice Statements" and they appear at every part of the Web site where personal information is requested.

What information do you need to know about Cookies on Transport Canada Web sites?

You are entitled to know what information is gathered by applications and what is stored in Cookies, for what purpose, how the information is stored, where you can gain access to your personal information and who to contact if you have any questions.

You are also entitled to public information and services without having to use Cookies. However, many of the Web applications will fail if you do not use them.

Why are Cookies used?

Cookies are commonly used for the convenience of site visitors.  They can be used to customize Web pages and to save visitors the time of re-typing information.  Cookies are also employed to remember what a visitor communicated on one Web page so that subsequent pages can provide data consistent with earlier patterns.

Cookies can record the browsing habits of visitors to determine what pages, ads and messages are collecting the greatest response and then adjust rates of exposure accordingly.

Can Cookies read information from a visitor's hard drive?

No. Cookies can only store data that is provided by the server or generated by an explicit action by a visitor.

Can Cookies be used to gather sensitive information?

Cookies cannot be used to gather sensitive information such as the fields in a browser preference file. They can be used to store any information provided by the server/application that the visitor volunteers and that the Web site places in the Cookie, for example by filling out an HTML form. In this case, however, the same information can just as easily (and with potentially more objectionable privacy concerns) be stored on the server by using a simple server-side application that stores visitor information in a database.  Cookies are passive data structures that are delivered to the visitor, stored on the visitor's hard drive, and returned in certain situations to the same server that provided the information in the first place.

Where are Cookies stored?

Persistent Cookie data is stored on the visitor's hard drive (although during actual communication it is stored in memory). The file name is different for each platform. For session Cookies, they are only held in memory.

How long do Cookies last?

A Web site may set an expiration date for a Cookie it delivers and extend it later without notice to the visitor. If no expiration date is specified, the Cookie is deleted when the visitor quits the browser. However, because of typically poor configuration, Cookies often default to 30 years as an expiration date.

Can a Cookie do any damage to your computer?

No, it's just a small text file. It can't carry a virus or interfere with any of the other files on your computer.

What products support Cookies?

All common browsers now support Cookies.

How can I set my browser to turn Cookies on or off.

If you use Internet Explorer 5.5 or earlier:

  • Choose the Tools menu entry, then Internet Options.
  • Select the Security tab, then click the zone you'd like to change, followed by the Custom button.
  • Scroll down to the header titled Cookies, and choose how you'd like to handle Cookies. You can choose to accept cookies from all sites, refuse to accept any, or be prompted whenever a site wants to send you a cookie.

If you use Internet Explorer 6.0 or higher:

  • Choose the Tools menu entry, then Internet Options.
  • Select the Privacy tab, then click the Edit button.
  • In Address of Web site field, type "tc.gc.ca" then click the Allow button to allow Transport Canada to use cookies within your browser. Depending on your individual privacy concerns and the privacy policies of various web sites, you can choose to accept or block cookies from a variety of addresses, or you can go to the Advanced button of the Privacy tab to override IE's automatic cookie handling.

If you are using Netscape Navigator 3.x, you can choose whether or not to accept a Cookie by:

  • Going to Options, choose Network Preferences then select Protocols.
  • Select "Show an alert before accepting a Cookie".

In Navigator versions 4 and 6, under Edit, you can refuse cookies entirely by setting an option in the Advanced section of the Preferences.

In Navigator versions 7.x, you can refuse cookies entirely by selecting "Block cookies from this site" under the Tools, Cookie manager menu.

In Mozilla Firefox 1.0 browser you can refuse cookies by unchecking the box that allows sites to set cookies under the Tools, Options, Privacy, Cookies menu.

Note: disabling Cookies will cause some sections of the TC Web site or Web applications to fail (including the e-news).