Cliqz acquires Ghostery

Martin Brinkmann
Feb 15, 2017
Updated • Feb 19, 2017

Cliqz, a German company owned by Burda Media and Mozilla, has acquired the popular anti-tracking tool Ghostery and the Ghostery brand.

We reviewed Ghostery several times here on Ghacks Technology News, the last time in September 2016 when the company behind the product released Ghostery 7 for all supported operating systems.

The company did make the news a year earlier when it sneaked a new promotional messaging system in the extension. It has been criticized as well for its GhostRank feature which records which ads are encountered and blocked.

The browser extension adds anti-tracking to the web browser. This is different from ad and content blockers which block advertisement, tracking and more.

Ghostery concentrates on the tracking part, but may block some ads as a consequence as well. The extension gives you options to allow or block certain trackers

The German company Cliqz is probably not as widely known. You may remember the name from one of Firefox's Test Pilot projects of the same name, or if you tried the company's main product, a web browser with improved search capabilities and improved user privacy.

The Firefox Test Pilot project added some of the features of the Cliqz web browser to Firefox.

Cliqz acquired the Ghostery brand, extension, and a development team responsible for the extension today. Ghostery's parent company Evidon is not part of the deal. It's access to anonymous data that Ghostery users provide freely remains.

According to the press release on the Ghostery website, Ghostery remains an independent product that the team will continue to work on. The team plans to integrate Cliqz's anti-tracking technology into Ghostery. This adds heuristic blocking to Ghostery, which relies currently on blocklists to get the job done.

Ghostery will also be integrated in the Cliqz browser "immediately". Since Cliqz is a German company, Ghostery's data collecting will abide by the "stronger" German privacy laws. The company updated its privacy policy already to reflect the change.

Ghostery's development team plans to work closely with Cliqz according to the press release to improve Ghostery further, and find "concepts and opportunities".

Among these will be the trial implementation of the Human Web as the infrastructure that we use to collect data to improve our own products. It’s important to underscore how cutting-edge this technology is and the importance it plays in collecting data safely and responsibly from users in a way that completely guarantees their anonymity and privacy.

You can find out more about the Human Web on the Cliqz website, or check out the source code on GitHub directly.

Interested users may join the beta group to participate in some of these texts and experiments.

Closing Words

It remains to be seen if nothing will change indeed, or if there will be some fallout or changes.

Now You: What's your take on the acquisition?

Article Name
Cliqz acquires Ghostery
Cliqz, a German company owned by Burda Media and Mozilla, has acquired the popular anti-tracking tool Ghostery and the Ghostery brand.
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  1. Clairvaux said on February 16, 2017 at 8:55 pm

    Using NoScript and AdblockPlus. Uninstalled Ghostery a while ago, for no particular reason. Have installed Privacy Badger lately, but might drop it : it breaks too many sites.

    You can’t spend you time unblocking sites. Learning to do that with NoScript was painful enough. Unblocking sites in several extensions is hopeless.

    At least, NoScript has two rather separate states : the default one degrades most sites to an acceptable level. They are less pretty, but all the functions you need are still there. And there’s a second state, where you need to unblock a site to make it perform what you want. This happens often, but becomes intuitive after some practice (although I must say that the first time you’re confronted with NoScript, it’s downright repulsive ; maybe something could be done to devise a friendlier user interface).

    I only ever use the options to unblock the site’s URL, or everything if that’s not enough. I don’t understand how one can use the myriad other options that are presented in the right-click menu. How do you know what URL will unblock the precise “thing” that’s not working ?

    1. _Handsome_Jack said on February 16, 2017 at 10:30 pm

      90% of the time I can infer it right away from the URL. Chances are it’s good if:
      – The name is similar to the site you’re on
      – There is “CDN” in it, although some ad companies and trackers sometimes use these 3 letters as well
      – There is “ajax” in the name

      I guess there’s more that I’m not thinking about right now. Maybe some “experience” doing this helps, like you “improve at it”, I dunno, but it’s never an issue for me. I do dislike the UI but even uMatrix with its much better UI involves a guessing game :)

      (Back to NoScript) You can also mark as untrusted sites you know you’ll NEVER need, mostly ad websites, so that the list of sites to check is kept short, and so that if you allow all the pages, those STILL aren’t allowed. (I think. I never allow everything.)
      You can also untick some boxes in NoScript’s “appearance” option tab to make things less intimidating or confusing.

  2. Anonymous said on February 16, 2017 at 12:47 pm

    It is rather discomforting to see more and more providers of “privacy focused software” to actually collect user data for unknown purposes. Mozilla seems to be part of that business with more and more relationships to big data companies surfacing. It looks like privacy minded individuals are running out of allies – and out of web browsers you can trust.

  3. Anonymous said on February 16, 2017 at 9:08 am

    Weird. Wanted to test Cliqz mobile (iOS) browser. Not available in Dutch Apple store…

  4. mickey said on February 16, 2017 at 7:31 am

    > Ghostery’s data collecting will abide to the “stronger” German privacy laws

    What does this actually mean though, and when will these changes come into effect?

    Given the sale I presume that Ghostery will eventually be ported to Web Extensions?

  5. Matt A. Tobin said on February 16, 2017 at 1:13 am


  6. Panzer said on February 15, 2017 at 8:38 pm

    Guys, what is your opinion on BadAdJohnny (vs uBlock Origin):

  7. Appster said on February 15, 2017 at 8:03 pm

    Mozilla acquires a company known for selling data to advertising companies… Then the Firefox Focus scandal… The situation becomes more and more obvious by the day.

    PS: Waiting for a certain influential blogger and known “expert” for all things Mozilla to defend this BS.

    1. Fx0 said on February 16, 2017 at 12:35 pm

      Is that really so difficult to understand for you? Not Mozilla acquired Ghostery, but the Clicqz GmbH. And what Dob said: regarding Firefox Focus, a lot of the statements was not true. But okay, it’s not your first comment on this website, you’re always against all with “Mozilla” in the news, that’s well known. It’s not possible to have a serious discussion with you. I wish you a lot of fun with your next “Mozilla is bad” comments.

      1. Dob said on February 16, 2017 at 4:34 pm

        That doesn’t mean I’ll trust Ghostery though. I didn’t trust it to this day, and just because a company that has Mozilla as a minority investor acquired it doesn’t make it magically trustable. That’s another topic.

      2. Dob said on February 16, 2017 at 4:15 pm

        Read these 5 short comments before hurling with the wolves and seeing absolute evil everywhere:

        Mozilla joined Cliqz as a strategic minority investor to get heuristic anti-tracking protection technology along with “privacy by design” architecture technology. How evil of them.

        Add to this the following fact: Mozilla is the big guy, not Cliqz. They don’t need data from Cliqz, like, at all. If Mozilla wanted to become data whores they have 500M users, way more than Cliqz could ever hope to achieve.

      3. Appster said on February 16, 2017 at 1:52 pm

        @Fx0: “Cliqz, a German company owned by Burda Media and Mozilla(!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!), has acquired the popular anti-tracking tool Ghostery and the Ghostery brand.” That is the very first sentence of the article! Did you even read it? And the telemetry option in Firefox Focus is still opt-out. That is not a lie. Install it yourself and you’ll agree. And no, I am not randomly against Mozilla. Mozilla does pull off a lot of BS nowadays, most notably ads in Firefox, Pocket, Australis, WebExtensions, Add-On Signing… The list goes on. I was a huge fan in the pre-Firefox 29 era. But I am not anymore, like those millions of users who have abandoned them for good. They destroyed the product I valued, so in fact they did spit on me before I did the same on them. So you can discuss seriously with me, but the changes Mozilla has implemented as of late were not heavily criticized for no reason. Remember that and move on.

    2. Fx0 said on February 15, 2017 at 8:17 pm

      First, there was no “scandal”, you should read the updates about this topic. Second, Mozilla is not Cliqz. Did you read the article?

      1. Dob said on February 16, 2017 at 4:04 pm

        Of course you wouldn’t recognize you’ve been hurling too soon or too loud, and try to justify it with other considerations. Only strong and noble people admit it when they have been wrong without adding “but…” after a passive aggressive apology.

      2. Appster said on February 16, 2017 at 7:35 am

        @Dob: It’s still opt-out whatever you say. And Mozilla has now bought a company known for selling data to advertising companies. They are not the good guys anymore. Get real.

      3. Dob said on February 15, 2017 at 10:39 pm

        You still have to eat your own words as you hurled with the wolves while these news were fake, even if there’s stuff to improve, the “researchers” lied about the most important bits.

      4. Appster said on February 15, 2017 at 8:24 pm

        Describing yourself as privacy-oriented yet making the telemetry option opt-out is a scandal. Cliqz in turn is owned by Mozilla and Burda Media. Did you read the article?

  8. Haakon said on February 15, 2017 at 7:44 pm

    I’ve been using Ghostery since it arrived on the scene.

    User data collection is optional, though it’s enabled by default. (Shocking! Who does that?)
    -Anyone can disable “Sharing page and tracker data.”
    -Anyone can disable “Sharing extension usage analytics.”

    No one has to create a Ghostery login to use or configure all the extension’s core features.

    I’m currently using v7.1.3.1 in Cyberfox 51.0.3 Intel x64 Portable and just got done looking for the cited creeping/useless featuritis and bloat. I can only conclude one person’s creeping/useless featuritis and bloat is another person’s feature enhancement and improved efficacy.

    With my own scrutiny in packet sniffing as well as webbunetz research, no one can prove any nefarious purposes in Ghostery nor is there any evidence that it has wrecked havoc, ruination or damage to any sector.

    Fear, uncertainty and doubt is obvious.

    Ghostery does exactly what it’s supposed to do. In combination with the Adguard extension and both configured “correctly,” they make browsing, annoyance free and as close to the privacy myth anyone can get.

    Of course, Martin, you’re whitelisted in both. ;)

    I do agree on the UI changes. But everyone (ahem, uBlock Origin) has jumped on the featureless rectangles, overwhelming fonts/icons bandwagon of the mono-color modern/metro/millennial UI movement. Ghostery shouldn’t be singled out.

  9. Jeff said on February 15, 2017 at 7:01 pm

    It used to be good before they started shitty constant policy changes and then shitty UI changes. Now I recommend uBlock Origin too.

  10. Andy said on February 15, 2017 at 6:59 pm

    I use a combo of uBlock Origin and Privacy Badger.

    1. Dob said on February 15, 2017 at 10:35 pm

      Why two instead of one ? Just curious, not criticizing :)

      1. Aleku said on February 20, 2017 at 2:18 pm

        How is Privacy Badger different from Disconnect, Adblock Plus, Ghostery, and other blocking extensions?

        Privacy Badger was born out of our desire to be able to recommend a single extension that would automatically analyze and block any tracker or ad that violated the principle of user consent; which could function well without any settings, knowledge, or configuration by the user; which is produced by an organization that is unambiguously working for its users rather than for advertisers; and which uses algorithmic methods to decide what is and isn’t tracking. Although we like Disconnect, Adblock Plus, Ghostery and similar products (in fact Privacy Badger is based on the ABP code!), none of them are exactly what we were looking for. In our testing, all of them required some custom configuration to block non-consensual trackers. Several of these extensions have business models that we weren’t entirely comfortable with. And EFF hopes that by developing rigorous algorithmic and policy methods for detecting and preventing non-consensual tracking, we’ll produce a codebase that could in fact be adopted by those other extensions, or by mainstream browsers, to give users maximal control over who does and doesn’t get to know what they do online.

  11. Yuliya said on February 15, 2017 at 6:16 pm

    “trial implementation of the Human Web as the infrastructure that we use to collect data to improve our own products”
    Look on the bright side, it can’t get any worse than it already is. It already is both soyware and adware.

  12. Jim said on February 15, 2017 at 6:11 pm

    I quit using Ghostery a while back. It started off great. Fairly simple, yet powerful. Seemed to do a good job. But then creeping featuritis set in and it became more hassle than it was worth. It’s a lesson that devs (in this case it was probably management) don’t seem to understand these days. If something works, especially if it works well, the best thing you can do is leave it alone. Bloat in the form of useless features will just drive users away. Step away from the keyboard and find something to work on that actually needs fixing.

  13. Henk van Setten said on February 15, 2017 at 6:09 pm

    I never trusted Ghostery since it became clear, quite some time ago already, how they collect user data (initially without being very honest about it). Anti-tracking extensions being used for their own kind of user tracking: this is a cynical world indeed.

    Nowadays if people ask me, I usually recommend them uBlock Origin. But of course I wouldn’t be surprised at all to find out, at some point in time, that they’ve gone over to the Dark Side as well.

    This is the nastiest effect of a cynical world: it also makes you into a cynical person yourself.

    For the rest, I must say this kind of takeover news doesn’t interest me very much anymore.

    1. Dan82 said on February 17, 2017 at 6:58 pm

      As long as gorhill (Raymond Hill) remains the owner of uBlock Origin, it is very very likely, that nothing like that will ever happen. The guy is a proponent of open source software and development and even goes so far as to decline donations for his excellent work.

      That said, since the code is entirely GPL, it’s legal for others to use the code-base and release it under a different brand name with who knows what modifications that may be detrimental to the user. We all know what happened with uBlock after Chris Aljoudi took over the project (for which he is still asking for donations today on the official uBlock website, despite not having updated or maintained the software for almost two years), but I’m quite sure there are also several other forks on the Chrome Web Store that are less than trustworthy.

      The latter point is the one major reason why I think news articles like this one are so important. It may be possible for operators of the major web-browser extension stores to filter out actively malicious offers from being publicly available, but the same cannot be said about those extensions which track the user. In some cases that’s even a desired behavior (or they wouldn’t install extensions like WoT in the first place), but the store operator may simply tolerate it as long as the extension’s behavior is spelled out clearly enough in the privacy policy. That’s the piece of legalese the majority of users accept without reading or thinking about.

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