|Stable release||5.4.1 (Firefox, Chrome, Safari, Opera) 0.12 (Opera Next) 3.1.0 (Internet Explorer) 1.4.0 (iOS) / October 15, 2014|
|Type||Internet Explorer extension,
iPhone app (browser), Safari extension
Ghostery is a free privacy-related browser extension for Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Internet Explorer, Opera, and Apple Safari owned by the advertising and privacy technology company Ghostery, Inc. (formerly Evidon). It enables its users to easily detect and control web bugs which are objects embedded in a web page, invisible to the user, that allow the collection of data on the user's browsing habits. Ghostery also has a privacy team that creates profiles of page elements and companies for educational purposes.
Ghostery blocks HTTP requests and redirects according to their source address in two ways: cookie blocking and cookie protection (where available). When cookie protection is enabled, if a cookie is selected from Ghostery's list, it is not accessible to anyone but the user and thus cannot be read when called upon.
History and use
Originally developed by David Cancel, Ghostery was acquired by the advertising and privacy technology company Evidon in January 2010. Currently, through the use of a reporting function named "GhostRank" that users can opt into, Ghostery provides reports to Evidon about advertisers and data collectors, which Evidon then provides to advertising industry groups including the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and the 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.
Evidon, the company owning Ghostery, plays a dual role in the online advertising industry. Ghostery blocks sites from gathering personal information. But it does have an opt-in feature named GhostRank that can be checked to "support" them; GhostRank takes note of ads encountered and blocked, and sends that information, though anonymously, back to advertisers so they can better formulate their ads to avoid being blocked.
Thus, 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 grad student and privacy advocate.
Tom Simonite of MIT Technology Review explains that with the "Ghostrank" feature enabled Ghostery sends collected user data back to the vendor, who then offers it for sale to ad firms. This is also reflected in the German branch of the magazine. Consequently, the German computer magazine Chip comes to the conclusion to not recommend installing the software and suggests NoScript as a (partial) alternative.
According to Evidon, Ghostery does not collect any information which could be used to identify users or target ads specifically at individual users. Additionally, Ghostery would collect data only when Ghostrank is enabled. The collected data would be shared with the Better Business Bureau and offered to university students, researchers and journalists to support their studies.
- Ghostery End-User Licence Agreement
- "Attacking Tracking: They're Watching You". Fox News. March 15, 2011.
- "Council to Enforce Online Tracking Principles". WSJ blogs. March 4, 2011.
- "Ad-Blocker Ghostery Actually Helps Advertisers, If You "Support" It". Lifehacker.
- Simonite, Tom (2013-06-17). "A Popular Ad Blocker Also Helps the Ad Industry". MIT Technology Review. Retrieved 2013-09-01.
- Simonite, Tom (2013-06-18). "Die Geister, die ich rief" (in German). Technology Review, Heise-Verlag. Retrieved 2013-09-01.
- "Ghostery für Firefox" (in German). chip.de. 2013-05-21. Retrieved 2013-09-01. (NB. See summary (Fazit)).
- "What does Evidon do with Ghostrank information? (FAQ 17)". Evidon. Retrieved 2013-05-26.