Tired of Being Tracked Online? Try Ghostery’s New AI Tool
Every time you visit a web site, there’s a very good chance a company—most notably Google or Facebook—will deploy a tracking tool to record what you looked at, and build a profile of what you do on the Internet. This sort of tracking, which is primarily done for advertising purposes, can feel invasive but many consumers feel this is the price of using the web, and that there is little they can do about it.
New York-based Ghostery, however, begs to differ. The company is one of several that make apps to block the web-tracking tools and preserve users’ privacy. In practice, this means consumers can download a tool that sits in their browser and stops the likes of Google from collecting information about the websites they visit.
On Wednesday, Ghostery claimed its privacy preservation service is now better than ever thanks to an artificial intelligence (AI) feature that detects and blocks new types of trackers.
Until now, Ghostery has worked by analyzing websites that contain tracking tools, and then compiling blacklists to restrict such activity. Now, by using its new AI tool, the company will be able to detect new forms of tracking activity in real time—and thwart them.
“Ghostery 8’s enhanced privacy protection detects and overwrites any uniquely identifying data points being passed to a third party—even trackers that aren’t caught by Ghostery’s comprehensive blocklist,” said the company in a blog post announcing the feature.
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Meanwhile, Ghostery also released the results of a study in conducted to show pervasiveness of tracking on the web. The company found that so-called “tracking scripts” are present on at least 79% of all websites, and 60% of sites contain tracking tools associated with Google (GOOGL) and 27% had ones associated with Facebook (FB).
It’s important to note that not all of this sort of activity is nefarious. Tracking tools can serve useful functions such as sparing consumers the bother of repeatedly logging into the same website, and providing companies with analytics to build better products.
On the downside, though, the tracking tools not only pose a privacy threat by recording a consumers’ web activities, but also slow down the time it takes for a web page to load. By blocking this activity, Ghostery—and rival services such as Disconnect—can create a faster browsing experience.
In an interview with Fortune, Ghostery’s head of product, Jeremy Tillman, says the company works to ensure that its anti-tracking tools don’t interfere with a consumer’s web browsing activity—meaning that the sites consumers visit operate as normal but without the tracking activity.
Tillman also shares some insight into the business model of Ghostery, which in the past has been accused of hypocrisy for selling data about its users to advertisers.
According to Tillman, since its acquisition by Germany-based Cliqz, the company has been winding down its contracts to provide data to its former parent company, and is instead focused on selling premium versions of its free product.
This story was corrected at 1pm ET to note Ghostery is winding down its contract with its former owner, not advertisers.