Visitors to virtually every major website are tracked, but you can limit the snooping.
Visitors to almost every major website are tracked online, a Journal investigation has found. But there are ways to limit the snooping. Web browsing activity is tracked by use of “cookies,” “beacons” and “Flash cookies,” small computer files or software programs installed on a user’s computer by the Web pages that are visited. Some are useful. But a subset (“third party” cookies and beacons) are used by companies to track users from site to site and build a database of their online activities.
Major browsers including Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome and Safari, have privacy features. To have the most privacy options, upgrade to the latest version of the browser you use.
Check and Delete Cookies: All popular browsers let users view and delete cookies installed on their computer. Methods vary by browser.
For instance on Internet Explorer 8 (the most widely used browser), go to the “Tools” menu, pull down to “Internet Options” and under the “General” tab there are options for deleting some or all cookies. There might be hundreds, so deleting all might be easiest. But the next time you visit a favorite site, you may need to retype passwords or other login data previously stored automatically by one of those cookies.
Adjust Browser Settings: Once you’ve deleted cookies, you can limit the installation of new ones. Major browsers let you accept some cookies and block others. To maintain logins and settings for sites you visit regularly, but limit tracking, block “third-party” cookies. Safari automatically does this; other browsers must be set manually.