Last Updated 1st October 2014
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The 2003 Regulations implemented a European Directive - 2002/58/EC - which is concerned with the protection of privacy in the electronic communications sector. In 2009 this Directive was amended by Directive 2009/136/EC. This included a change to Article 5(3) of the E-Privacy Directive requiring consent for storage or access to information stored on a subscriber or users terminal equipment - in other words a requirement to obtain consent for cookies and similar technologies.
Governments in Europe had until 25 May 2011 to implement these changes into their own law. The UK introduced the amendments on 25 May 2011 through The Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) (Amendment) Regulations 2011.
The rules in this area are essentially designed to protect the privacy of internet users - even where the information being collected about them is not directly personally identifiable. The changes to the Directive in 2009 were prompted in part by concerns about online tracking of individuals and the use of spyware. These are not rules designed to restrict the use of particular technologies as such, they are intended to prevent information being stored on people's computers, and used to recognise them via the device they are using, without their knowledge and agreement.
Each browser has a different way of removing cookies, please search for "how to delete cookies" in your favourite search engine to find the instructions.