Here's how Ghostery (a consumer Ad Blocking system) describes how they work:
"Be a web detective.
Ghostery is your window into the invisible web tags, web bugs, pixels and beacons that are included on web pages in order to get an idea of your online behavior. Ghostery tracks over 1,400 trackers and gives you a roll-call of the ad networks, behavioral data providers, web publishers, and other companies interested in your activity."
Millions of consumers use ad-blockers hoping to get away from all that flash marketing which can be such an annoyance.
A report today (06-18-13) says that one of the most popular ad-blocking services, Ghostery, is collecting data about your browsing habits all the time it's blocking ads, allowing its parent company, Evidon, to sell that data to advertisers!
"This is not a scheme," MIT quotes Scott Meyer, Evidon's CEO, as saying. It's helpful to give advertisers Ghostery's data because advertisers don't generally want to target people who have opted out of advertising, he says.
B. S. If a company is in bed with advertisers, almost certainly selling results of your browsing habits. Better to not be in bed with Ghostery on the consumer side.
Someone related to Evidon or Ghostery is bound to squeal in response to serious allegations.
UPDATE 05-13-15: Web Security is a serious thing. I've gotten two questions recently about the app "Ghostery", my review of which appears above. I'm not an IT/networking guru. I rely on research I've done, and use common sense. I have LifeHackers spin on Ghostery, AND, a response to LH's thoughts by the company which owns Ghostery. All in all, a fairly comprehensive look at the product, from both sides. I'm going to paste Lifehacker's thoughts, along with Ghostery's response below.
While lengthy, it's all the info you'll need to made a good decision about using the app. Hope this helps. If you disagree with what I've leave, that's fine. No need to write and argue about it. Do as you please:_____________________________
Ghostery is owned by Evidon, a company that collects and provides data to advertising companies. It has a feature called GhostRank that you can check to "support" them. The problem is, Ghostery blocks sites from gathering personal information on youbut Ghostrank will take note the ads you encounter and which ones you block, and sends that information back to advertisers so they can better formulate their ads to avoid being blocked. The data is anonymous, and Ghostery still does everything it promises to do to protect your privacy.
You could argue this is a good thing, and that it'll help advertisers create better, less intrusive ads. The other argument is that GhostRank is a tool to build a better mousetrap, as it wereunblockable ads and better tracking cookies. That's not lost on privacy advocates:
A major source of business for Evidon is selling data that helps ad companies ensure their compliance with AdChoices, a self-regulatory program supposed to help people opt out of targeted ads. Some experts say AdChoices is confusing to consumers, and it has been criticized by U.S. and EU policymakers. "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 active in efforts to develop a standard "Do Not Track" feature for web browsers.
EVIDON'S REPLY:: Adam DeMartino, of Ghostery, reached out to offer his side of the story. He says: The data we collect in GhostRank doesn't contain any information about the actual ads that were seen by panel members. Rather, we simply report on the technologies that are used to deliver those ads, the performance characteristics of the URLs those technologies were seen on, and if the user blocked that particular technology company. GhostRank can't see the actual ads or anything about the criteria that were used to target them.
Hit the link below to read the full story at Mashable, and then check out our favorite privacy protection tools if you need more options. Popular Ad Blocker Also Helps the Ad Industry | Mashable
Well that's irritating. I guess I'll be sure Ghostrank is off.
I always found Ghostery rather bothersome when I tried it some years ago. Always found it easier to use Trueblock, and to tell Mozilla/Firefox/SeaMonkey to prevent 3rd party cookies & to let me choose which cookies to allow.
Yeah, this definitely cuts both ways (and I've been tweaking the piece because I don't want it to come off sensational) - it's opt-in, and when we were talking about it, we were both "this is great! The data they get will help them build less crappy ads that everyone doesn't just want to block" and "yeah, but having your privacy extension owned by an ad company is kinda scummy" at the same time. Ultimately, we just wanted to throw up the warning - both about the feature and the company - so people can make an educated decision.
* I still use Ghostery, and have changed my previous rating from ONE star, to FOUR, I feel the app works. There will always be a security risk, even marginally so, when you use security apps like these. Idea is to get significant benefit, while giving the least away.
"Disconnect" is an alternative to Ghostery. Check out a comparison in this forum: http://bit.ly/1bQCS0D