Cookie-blocking browser plugin Ghostery feeds data to the ad industry

By on June 18, 2013, 6:30 PM

The popular browser add-on called Ghostery blocks tracking code on websites, improving page load speeds and narrowing a user’s footprint on the web. It’s often touted as an essential part of the online privacy toolkit, and made the list in our recent guest blog about internet privacy.

What most users don’t realize, reports the MIT Technology Review, is that Ghostery’s parent company, Evidon, sells the data it collects to advertisers.

It should be made clear that opting-out of sharing information within Ghostery excludes you from this data collection, and Evidon reportedly abides by this request.

Evidon’s co-founder and CEO, Scott Meyer, says there is no conflict in the two roles his company plays in offering users a tool to hide from the ad industry while also providing data about those users to advertising companies.

“Anything that gives people more transparency and control is good for the industry,” says Meyer.

Evidon sells two services to its clients. The first profiles the tracking code from a website, and allows site operators to view where it is coming from and how it affects the speed of their pages. The second provides advertisers with statistics on how common trackers from other companies are on the web.

The first, says Meyer, is very important because site owners often don’t realize what tracking code from other sites is being used on their visitors. “It’s usual for the operator of a website to say, ‘These 10 companies on my site I know about and these 10 I didn’t,’ ” says Meyer.

Not everyone is convinced that the duality of Evidon’s role, straddling the line between consumer privacy and the advertising industry, is as harmless as Meyer suggests.

Evidon sells a significant amount of data to ad companies wanting to ensure their compliance with the AdChoices program. AdChoices is supposed to help people opt-out of targeted ads, and Evidon has a vested interest in the program’s success in competition with alternatives like “Do Not Track” features that are becoming standard in some browsers.




User Comments: 32

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1 person liked this | VitalyT VitalyT said:

This is what you call a Trojan. Happy days...

2 people like this | spectrenad said:

Idc if they track me, they can't shove their adds at me with adblock

1 person liked this | tonylukac said:

Everything seems to collect visited urls, too. What do they do with that?

soldier1969 soldier1969 said:

Been using Ghostery for over a week now, but after reading this,no more. Will look elsewhere.

Guest said:

I just threw my disgusting Ghostery in the incinerator. Shame on you Evidon, you are despicable.

Gnome Gnome said:

It says they honor the request if you opt-out. They should be more upfront about this stuff, but they need to make money somehow.

Guest said:

The option to opt-out is the very first item shown when managing the add-on. This should be immediately seen after installing the add-on and managing the trackers and cookies you want to block. The data is collected anonymously and you can see explanation as well as a link to their FAQ on their website. There on their site written in bold it says data is shared with businesses however it is anonymously. My tinfoil hat is bigger than most, however this is a non-issue, especially with the clearly visible opt-out and explanation. Stop causing needless panic.

JC713 JC713 said:

I installed that app a year back. I uninstalled it a second after installing lol.

I use a real app called Disconnect instead.

1 person liked this | tomkaten tomkaten said:

This app is simply not needed. Use the Easyprivacy addon for Adblock Plus or Adblock and watch Ghostery suddenly not blocking anything.

I hated it from day 1, because it broke some pages and I had to manually allow stuff.

1 person liked this | Littleczr Littleczr said:

I got nothing to hide. Why should it bother me if they sell my private information. J/K

PinothyJ said:

Glad this is not an Australian company, you get in a lot of trouble for Opt-out instead of opt-in when it comes to privacy...

tipstir tipstir, TS Ambassador, said:

Shame on them..

TekGun TekGun said:

So instead of the website you're visiting getting paid for adds, this ahole gets paid instead under the guise of protecting your privacy.

Skidmarksdeluxe Skidmarksdeluxe said:

But why use something like this? Why not use your browsers built in anti tracking? Is that suspect as well?

Guest said:

Ghostery is useless because you can always use EasyList privacy (or such) so there is no need for separate extension at all.

JC713 JC713 said:

This app is simply not needed. Use the Easyprivacy addon for Adblock Plus or Adblock and watch Ghostery suddenly not blocking anything.

I hated it from day 1, because it broke some pages and I had to manually allow stuff.

Same. I use Disconnect instead.

JC713 JC713 said:

Ghostery is useless because you can always use EasyList privacy (or such) so there is no need for separate extension at all.

What does the EasyList for Adblock do?

Guest said:

Ghostery's website ghostery.com that is clearly states in under OUR PROMISE

Ghostery will never be used for advertising
... thankyou very much uninstalled hope you rot with that money you made. Can someone please sue this company ?

Guest said:

Because it's called "private!"

lipe123 said:

First off all, anyone that goes "omg cookies are evil I need to block them now" is already a red flag.

You, dear Internet user, is uninformed and paranoid and you are being preyed on because of your ignorance. Don't start blaming everyone else because you couldn't be bothered to uncheck the opt in option for data collection.

Ps. Don't forget to buy a registry cleaner with that cookie blocker and one of those "speed up my pc" utilities while you are at it! (disclaimer: No don't buy those things, they are all bull*****, that was sarcasm)

amstech amstech, TechSpot Enthusiast, said:

If's its online, it ain't private. No encrypted cloud, secured server or incognito method will save you. Big Brother is in fact, watching you. (just my crazy take, don't take it too seriously )

Guest said:

Some of you are just pathetic! Demanding protection at no cost to yourself and thinking that there is such a thing as benevolent entities with unlimited resources to do good.

I honestly do not have a problem with groups like this collecting and selling anonymous statistics, because they provide a "free" service to me and to which I can tell them I don't even want them to make a means to continue to provide this service, by opting out.

Not to mention some that just piss on a product that doesn't do everything for them (for free) and provide no feed back to the company, but only gripe and ***** on forums.

Damn freeloading punks, go try and do community service jobs (volunteer work) for a living and see how well that pays your bills.

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

I got nothing to hide. Why should it bother me if they sell my private information. J/K

Would you mind scooting me over a PM of your credit card numbers? I swear I won't share them with anyone else

For the rest of you that might want to conceal your private info and browsing, the latest Firefox has, "do not track" built in.

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

I honestly do not have a problem with groups like this collecting and selling anonymous statistics, because they provide a "free" service to me and to which I can tell them I don't even want them to make a means to continue to provide this service, by opting out.

Not to mention some that just piss on a product that doesn't do everything for them (for free) and provide no feed back to the company, but only gripe and ***** on forums.

Well, isn't that what forums are for?

It is rather duplicitous to block someone from tracking you, then sell them the information later. Sort of like a drug dealer opening up a rehab clinic, collecting from the insurance companies, then selling the patients illegal drug upon their release.

Damn freeloading punks, go try and do community service jobs (volunteer work) for a living and see how well that pays your bills.
You certainly are an inarticulate lout, pushy and mouthy as well. It's been a "pleasure" to have you here as a "guest".

Y'all come back again real soon. Did I mention we have a "report button"? It's for extra special "guests", such as yourself.

Guest said:

I just threw my disgusting Ghostery in the incinerator. Shame on you Evidon, you are despicable.

Shame on them..

In today's capitalistic world, you either pay with money or with your information. The idea that software should be free is ridiculous.

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

In today's capitalistic world, you either pay with money or with your information. The idea that software should be free is ridiculous.
Oh bull****. The idea that software should now be a monthly utility charge is parasitic. Which do you prefer?

Guest said:

In today's capitalistic world, you either pay with money or with your information. The idea that software should be free is ridiculous.
Oh bull****. The idea that software should now be a monthly utility charge is parasitic. Which do you prefer?

I strongly agree with Guest. If you really want to make this industry go forward, please buy your software or buy professional services associated with freeware. Nothing is free. Nothing. That is what the Soviets found out after a few years.

Guest said:

"If you really want to make this industry go forward, please buy your software"

You've got to be kidding me. The only way that industry will go is toward their doing whatever it is they can to make themselves more money.

Typically at the detriment of their userbase/customers.

The only "industry" that is making any kind of a serious stride in the direction of their users best interests is the open-source software movement.

Tell me how chrome or internet explorer has their user's best interests at hear better than firefox?

Linux OSs are by far much more benevolent than those other two greedy corporations absorbing trillions from their sickly userbase just to further rape them.

Why doesn't Microsoft have a package repository with versions of all major and minor software developed for Windows, that is clean of any viruses, freely accessible to anybody, and administered solely by trusted individuals? Because it's in Microsoft's financial best interest not to do so, when it's obviously completely possible and not difficult by an organizations standards to do so.

It's as if you're just another mindless sheep, regurgitating the agenda of someone/something that wants to do you harm xD

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

I strongly agree with Guest. If you really want to make this industry go forward, please buy your software or buy professional services associated with freeware. Nothing is free. Nothing. That is what the Soviets found out after a few years.
Oh look, a "guest" agreeing with another guest, there's a big ****ing surprise.

So tell me, do you by the full pro version of Adobe Acrobat, when all you need is the reader? If so you might be the ****** ******* ******* on the planet.

And by the way, most of what the Soviets found out is this, their economy couldn't support an arms race with the US, and most of the Slavic and Baltic states, plus Afghanistan. outright hated their guts. Did they even manage to hold on to Belarus and the Ukraine?

Guest said:

I see cookies are being discussed too so I'll toss in my 2 cents on that.

The best option I've found for cookie management / privacy is an application that scans the cookie DBs of the browsers you tell it to manage. You can then designate some domains as favorites so those cookies are retained. Then you can delete all the rest automatically and regularly. You can also delete tracking cookies from your favorite domains so you're just retaining your ID and settings basically.

The name of the app I use is "Cookie".

Guest said:

You guys talking trash about Ghostery based on this article need to read it again.

First of all, you can opt out of this. If you don't send anything to Ghostery then it's fine. They aren't doing anything wrong.

Chill out, if you were using Ghostery for a reason and stopped reading it because of this, you're retarded. Nothing has changed, just turn off sending info the Ghostery.

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