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Ghostery is a privacy and security-related browser extension and mobile browser application. Since February 2017, it has been owned by the German company Cliqz International GmbH (formerly owned by Evidon, Inc., which was previously called Ghostery, Inc. and The Better Advertising Project). It is distributed as proprietary freeware. The code was originally developed by David Cancel and associates.
José María Signanini
|Type||Internet Explorer add-on/extension
Microsoft Edge add-on
Google Chrome extension
iOS app (browser)
Android app (browser)
Firefox for Android add-on
Ghostery blocks HTTP requests and redirects according to their source address in several ways:
- Blocking third-party tracking scripts that are used by websites to collect data on user behavior for advertising, marketing, site optimization, and security purposes. These scripts, also known as "tags" or "trackers", are the underlying technology that places tracking cookies on consumers browsers.
- Continuously curating a "script library" that identifies when new tracking scripts are encountered on the Internet and automatically blocking them.
- Creating "Whitelists" of websites where third-party script blocking is disabled and other advanced functionality for users to configure and personalize their experience.
Ghostery reports all tracking packages detected, and whether Ghostery has blocked them or not, in a "findings window" accessible from clicking on the Ghostery Icon in the browser. When configured, Ghostery also displays the list of trackers present on the page in a temporary purple overlay box.
History and useEdit
Originally developed by David Cancel, Ghostery was acquired by Evidon (renamed Ghostery, Inc.) in January 2010. Ghostery is among the most popular browser extensions for privacy protection. In 2014, Edward Snowden suggested consumers use Ghostery along with other tools to protect their online privacy.
Cliqz GmbH acquired Ghostery from Evidon Inc. in February 2017.
Cliqz's mission is to provide an innovative, privacy-focused browser solution by bringing together data, browser, and search technologies. Cliqz and Ghostery together plan to raise the benchmark in privacy protection by combining AI-powered and blocklist anti-tracking approaches.
On March 8, 2018, Ghostery shifted back to an open source development model, citing that this would allow third-party contributions, as well as make the software more transparent in its operations. The company cited that Evidon's business model "was hard to understand and lent itself to conspiracy theories", and that its new monetization strategy would involve affiliate marketing and the sale of ad analytics data.
In May 2018, in the distribution of an email promoting changes to Ghostery's practices to comply with General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), hundreds of user email addresses were accidentally leaked by listing them as recipients. Ghostery apologized for the incident, stating that they stopped the distribution of the email when they noticed the error, and reported that this was caused by a new in-house email system which accidentally sent the message as a single email to many recipients, rather than sending it individually to each user.
Some say that Ghostery, Inc. plays a dual role in the online advertising industry.[weasel words] Ghostery blocks sites from gathering personal information, but it does have an opt-in feature called GhostRank which can be checked to "support" them. GhostRank takes note of ads encountered and blocked and sends that information back to advertisers so they can better formulate their ads to avoid being blocked. Though Ghostery claims that the data is anonymized, patterns of web page visits cannot truly be anonymized. Not everyone sees Evidon's business model as conflict-free. "Evidon has a financial incentive to encourage the program's adoption and discourage alternatives like Do Not Track and cookie blocking as well as to maintain positive relationships with intrusive advertising companies," says Jonathan Mayer, a Stanford graduate student and privacy advocate.
The company that owned Ghostery, Ghostery, Inc. (previously Evidon), plays a dual role in the online advertising industry. Ghostery blocks marketing companies from gathering website user information, but it makes money from selling page visit, blocking, and advertising statistics to corporations globally, including corporations that are actively engaged in collecting user information to target ads and other marketing messages to consumers.
Customers include advertising industry groups like the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and Direct Marketing Association, parts of the Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA). These agencies then use those reports to monitor how online behavioral advertisers operate and, when needed, refer them to the Federal Trade Commission. Ghostery also offers data to university students, researchers, and journalists to support their work.
According to some journalists, Ghostery is not transparent in how it collects data from users or what that data is used for. Other journalists have claimed that Ghostery sells user data to advertisers to better target their ads. Ghostery, Inc. denies this, asserting that Ghostery does not collect any information that could be used to identify users or target ads specifically at individual users. To support their assertion, the company made the source code open for review in 2010, but after 2010 further source have not been released.
- Ad blocking; most ad blockers provide tracking protection
- Browser extension
- Online advertising
- Disconnect Mobile, an open source application developed by Brian Kennish and Casey Oppenheim designed to stop non-consensual third party trackers
- DoNotTrackMe, a free-of-charge browser extension for blocking trackers on the Internet developed by Abine
- Privacy Badger, open-source browser extension created by the EFF that blocks advertisements and tracking cookies
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