When a web-server "sets" a cookie, it is really just sending it in the Cookie header, It's the browser that decides what to do with the cookie – and in most browsers, even older ones, the user can control this with the privacy settings.
What is interesting is that the EU apparently sat down one day, and decided:
Hm. Okay. Lets make a law on small text files stored on peoples personal computers and devices. Ha Ha Ha!
Cookies are harmless
Its hard to understand what made this issue catch the attention of politicians in the EU, i have a feeling its a small group of people who somehow managed to bush this thing through.
If we where to inform the user, or get the users consent, on the use of all technologies we are using, it would be a tedious task – cookies is just one technology out of many possible candidates – but yet for some reason people chose to pick on the .txt file.
Unfair to website owners and developers
Cookies can be used to track users online, but there are many variables involved in doing so, and it primarily happens trough ad-networks and third party statistics tools – and for these tools to be able to track the users, websites visited by the user must have them implemented.
The only problem with cookies is that the browser is configured to accept third party cookies by default – and for this everyone are now getting punished. I would however argue that its up to the user to configure their browser to block unwanted cookies, in case they don't want them. We should not be punished for the users ignorance!
You can't really make laws like this, and expect everyone to start complying. If they had been more considerate, they would have targeted browser developers rather than website owners.
The users responsibility
It's the users own responsibility to update their software, so had a browser based solution been implemented, it wouldn't have harmed developers and site owners.
It has taken a long time to make people either update, or just move away from Internet Explore – there's no reason to repeat the mistake when it comes to privacy issues! The responsibility lies entirely with the user, not the site owners.
Solving privacy problems
To solve current and future privacy issues, it is important to work closely together with browser developers.
Initiatives such as the Do Not Track can not work as a solution, simply because it require developers to support it. What we really need is to think outside of the box – and simply acknowledge that the internet is still young. We are facing new problems – problems that require solutions – Not workarounds. We need to give the experts time to re-think certain technologies, and until they have done so, any changes imposing expenses or loss to website owners should not be accepted nor tolerated by its victims.
I'm sure ad-serving would work without ad-networks having ability to track users, i would even prefer that they would just show ads based on the content of my site, rather than showing ads irrelevant to my content.