Can I Control Cookies?
Most web browsers allow you some degree of control over HTTP cookies.
At the most basic level you can either accept or block all cookies - a sledgehammer approach that isn't very helpful. By blocking all cookies you will find that a number of the websites you visit will not function properly and may not show some content. Allowing all cookies unconditionally is not a good idea either - you could end up receiving a great deal of spam and unwanted advertising!
Apart from controlling cookies within your browser settings, there are various other options such as plug-ins or extensions. You can also manually delete stored cookies from your hard drive if you know where to look.
Fortunately, most modern browsers allow you to customise your levels of privacy and which cookies to accept or decline*. Here are a few examples:
Internet Explorer 9.x
From the Tools menu, select Internet options then click on the Privacy tab. From here you can adjust the slider to your preferred level of cookie acceptance. The default setting of Medium-High will probably suit most people. Your selected level will apply to all websites that you visit. You can also use the Advanced setting to make exceptions for specific websites.
To remove cookies already on your computer, click on the General tab, then the Delete button under Browsing history. Click on the Cookies checkbox to remove them. Important note: unless you have a very good reason for doing so, this is not recommended as it may remove cookies from websites that you make us of (such as remembering you from previous visits, customising the appearance or content of a page, etc.).
Earlier versions of Internet Explorer allow similar functionality via the Tools menu, although to a lesser degree of control.
From the Tools menu, click on Privacy. You can accept/block all cookies, just third party cookies, as well as tracking cookies. Firefox also lets you set the Keep until option, so you could remove cookies at the end of your browsing session for example.
To remove cookies already on your computer, click on the Show cookies button. Here you can remove selected cookies or all at once.
Google Chrome 19.x
Click on the Spanner icon in the toolbar, then Settings. Click on Show advanced settings (text link at the very bottom of the page). Under Privacy, click on the Content settings button. Under the Cookies section you can control the level of cookies you wish to accept or decline.
Click on the All cookies and site data button to remove selected cookies or all at once.
From the Edit menu, select Preferences, then click on the Privacy icon. Here you can change the default (block third party and advertising cookies) to the all or nothing approach.
Click on the Remove All Website Data button to delete all cookies, or click on the Details button to see your cookies and delete them selectively.
From the Opera menu button select Settings > Preferences, then click on the Advanced tab. Click on Cookies to change the settings.
Click on the Manage Cookies button to edit or delete existing cookies on a per site basis.
Although the major browser providers are working on improvements to privacy issues and cookie management, it is not currently acceptable by the ICO to rely solely on them for your compliance. See Is my website compliant? for further information.