Ghostery

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Ghostery
Ghostery-Logo-White-Background-Black-Type.png
Developer(s) David Cancel,
Felix Shnir,
Alexei Miagkov,
José María Signanini
Stable release 5.4.10 (Opera) February 19, 2016; 5 months ago (2016-02-19) 6.0.3 (Mozilla Firefox) March 10, 2016; 4 months ago (2016-03-10) 5.4.10 (Google Chrome) December 29, 2015; 6 months ago (2015-12-29) 5.4.9 (Apple Safari) December 30, 2015; 6 months ago (2015-12-30) 0.10.1 (Opera Next) July 20, 2015; 11 months ago (2015-07-20) 5.4.9 (Internet Explorer) December 30, 2015; 6 months ago (2015-12-30) 1.4.6 (iOS) February 24, 2015; 16 months ago (2015-02-24) 1.2.1 (Android) April 17, 2015; 15 months ago (2015-04-17) / December 30, 2015; 6 months ago (2015-12-30)
Operating system Cross-platform
Type Internet Explorer add-on/Internet Explorer extension,
Opera extension,
Firefox extension,
Chrome extension,
iPhone app (browser), Safari extension
License Proprietary[1]
Website www.ghostery.com

Ghostery is a proprietary freeware privacy and security-related browser extension and mobile application for Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Microsoft Internet Explorer, Opera, Apple Safari, iOS, Android and Firefox Mobile, owned by Ghostery, Inc. (formerly Evidon). It enables its users to easily detect and control javascript code (commonly known as "Tags" or "Trackers") that are embedded in a web page, invisible to the user, allowing collection of the user's browsing habits via placing of HTTP cookies and other types of tracking such as canvas fingerprinting. Additionally, Ghostery’s privacy team creates profiles of page elements and companies for educational purposes.[2] [3]

Functionality[edit]

Blocking[edit]

Ghostery blocks HTTP requests and redirects according to their source address in several ways: 1) 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; 2) Continuously curating a "script library" that identifies when new tracking scripts are encountered on the Internet and automatically blocking them[3] and 3) Creating "Whitelists" of websites where third-party script blocking is disabled and other advanced functionality for users to configure and personalize their experience. When a tracker is blocked, any cookie that the tracker has placed it is not accessible to anyone but the user and thus cannot be read when called upon. [4] [5]

Reporting[edit]

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.[6]

When the "Ghost rank" reporting feature is enabled, Ghostery transmits the full HTML code of the page visited to Ghostery, Inc., along with statistics on which advertising distribution systems the user encounters and the speed at which these load on the page. These data are anonymized and packaged into services the company sells (see "Business model")[7]

History and use[edit]

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.[8]

Criticism[edit]

Some say that Ghostery Inc. plays a dual role in the online advertising industry. Ghostery blocks sites from gathering personal information. But it does have an opt-in feature GhostRank that 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.[9] Though Ghostery claims that the data are anonymized, patterns of web page visits cannot truly be anonymized.[10] 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.[11]

Business model[edit]

The company that owns 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 Better Business Bureau (BBB) and the Direct Marketing Association, parts of the Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA).[12] These agencies then use those reports to monitor how Online Behavioral Advertisers operate and, when needed, refer them to the Federal Trade Commission.[13] 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.[14] 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.[15]

In February 22, 2016 Ghostery, Inc released new EULA for Ghostery browser extension, as proprietary closed-source product.[16]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "GHOSTERY". ghostery.com. 
  2. ^ "Ghostery". www.ghostery.com. Retrieved December 11, 2015. 
  3. ^ a b Attacking Tracking: They're Watching You (TV Production). Fox News. March 15, 2011. 
  4. ^ "Third-Party Cookies vs First-Party Cookies". Opentracker. Opentracker. Retrieved December 11, 2015. 
  5. ^ "Prevent 3rd party script from setting cookies (specifically Google adsense)". Stack Overflow. July 29, 2015. Retrieved December 11, 2015. 
  6. ^ "How does Ghostery work?". www.ghostery.com. Ghostery, Inc. Retrieved December 12, 2015. 
  7. ^ "Exactly what data does Ghostery collect?". www.ghostery.com. Ghostery, Inc. Retrieved December 12, 2015. 
  8. ^ Storm, Darlene (March 10, 2014). "Snowden at SXSW: We need better encryption to save us from the surveillance state". www.computerworld.com. computerworld. Retrieved December 21, 2015. 
  9. ^ Ad-Blocker Ghostery Actually Helps Advertisers, If You "Support" It
  10. ^ http://www.forbes.com/sites/kashmirhill/2012/08/01/how-your-browsing-history-is-like-a-fingerprint/#522c36ea6a10
  11. ^ Popular Ad Blocker Also Helps the Ad Industry
  12. ^ "Council to Enforce Online Tracking Principles". WSJ blogs. March 4, 2011. 
  13. ^ "Council Steps Up Enforcement of Interest-Based Advertising". www.bbb.org. Better Business Bureau. March 7, 2011. Retrieved 2016-01-05. 
  14. ^ Henry, Alan (June 17, 2013). "Ad-Blocker Ghostery Actually Helps Advertisers, If You "Support" It". lifehacker.com. LifeHacker. Retrieved December 12, 2015. 
  15. ^ Pierce, Jon. "Github - Ghostery Source Code". Github. Ghostery, Inc. Retrieved December 12, 2015. 
  16. ^ "Ghostery proprietary EULA". Ghostery, Inc. February 22, 2016. Retrieved February 23, 2016. 

External links[edit]