Virtually every major website you visit employs surveillance technology to track your activity online. But you can limit their ability to snoop with just a little effort.

First, some background. Websites track your browsing activities with things called “cookies,” “beacons,” and “Flash cookies.” These are small computer programs or files that the Web pages you visit install on your computer. Some of them can be helpful, saving you the trouble of continually logging in at frequently visited sites. But some are just for the website’s benefit. So-called “third party” cookies and beacons will track your online activities as you go from site to site, to create a database marketers will use.

Welcome to the world of privacy. Privacy features are offered by all the major browsers, including Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, and Chrome. To make sure you’re getting all the privacy options, upgrade to the latest version of your browser. Then here’s what to do:

Check and delete cookies. All major browsers let you see and delete the cookies installed on your computer. How this is done varies, so check the different tabs on your menu bar, such as Tools, Internet Options, and even General Settings. You’ll probably find a huge list of cookies, so deleting all could be the best approach, although it could mean you’ll have to re-enter log-in info at your favorite sites.

Adjust browser settings. After deleting the old cookies, you can then control how many new ones get installed. The popular browsers allow you to accept cookies that keep your log-ins and settings for favorite sites, but block “third party” cookies that track your moves all over the net. Safari blocks these automatically, but other browsers need to be manually set. If you block all cookies, you’ll have to log in every time you visit a site that requires it.

Turn on “private browsing.” The “private browsing” mode on all the big browsers will limit your cookies. Internet Explorer only has this feature on its latest IE8 version and Chrome labels it “Incognito.” Private browsing deletes cookies every time you turn it off or close the browser, but all of the history goes including those helpful log-in cookies. That’s why some people like to use private browsing only for special web searches, such as for health-related or financial account information.

Monitor Flash cookies. These are cookies that use Adobe’s Flash program to save info on your computer. Flash is a popular way to present online video, so these cookies can be useful for remembering your video settings. But Flash cookies also allow marketers to track your online activity. To view these cookies and adjust settings, go to: Be aware that some sites won’t let you watch videos or other content if these third-party cookies are blocked.

Beat those beacons. You can get help controlling beacons at There you can download an “add-on” or “plug-in” that will let you know if there’s a beacon on the page you’re viewing. Blocking features vary by browser, so check the Ghostery site for all the details.

Op out of advertising. You can block or limit the ads you receive with the following online tools:

Opt out of about 50 ad networks at You won’t see ads from the member networks, but you will still get others.

Block up to 152 ad networks at You can opt out of most of them by just clicking a button, but some will ask you to download a plug-in that works only with Firefox.

Good luck keeping your online experience as private as possible! And, as always, please feel free to contact us at any time about any matters relating to home financing or refinancing.??… Have a great day!