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José María Signanini
|Initial release||January 2010|
Ghostery is a free and open-source 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). The code was originally developed by David Cancel and associates.
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 use
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.
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.
Ghostery blocks sites from gathering personal information, but it does have an opt-in feature called GhostRank which can be enabled to "support" them. GhostRank takes note of ads encountered and blocked, then 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.
Since July 2018, with version 8.2, Ghostery shows advertisements of its own to users. Burda claims that the advertisements do not send personal data back to their servers and that they do not create a personal profile.
Cliqz GmbH acquired Ghostery from Evidon Inc. in February 2017. Ghostery no longer shares data of any kind with Evidon, Inc. Cliqz is a German company majority-owned by Hubert Burda Media.
- Ad blocking; most ad blockers provide tracking protection
- Disconnect Mobile, an application designed to stop non-consensual third party trackers
- DoNotTrackMe, a freeware browser extension for blocking trackers on the Internet
- List of formerly proprietary software
- Online advertising
- Privacy Badger, a free and open-source browser extension that blocks advertisements and tracking cookies
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