what-is-ghostery

When I was looking into software that could help to stop tracking when I was browsing the internet, I came across Ghostery.

The developers of the extension offer the software as a clean, fast and safe way to search for and block third-party data tracking technologies. This sounded exactly what I wanted so I checked it out.

Points I will cover here about the software include:

  • The features of Ghostery;
  • How to install the software;
  • How the software works;
  • How it differs from cookie blocking;
  • Why You Might Want to Use It

What Are the Features of Ghostery?

So what does Ghostery offer? Let’s look.

  • Smart blocking that is able to optimize web page performance while browsing automatically;
  • Enhanced anti-tracking data so privacy is protected;
  • A dynamic user interface offering multiple displays along with a tracker dashboard that is detailed;
  • Enhanced ad-blocking;
  • It is easy to set-up.

The Latest Version Offers Plenty of New Features

The latest version of the software is Ghostery 8. With it come plenty of innovative features. All of them go towards strengthening privacy, boosting the performance of websites and blocking advertisements.

I can tell you now that the software offers plenty of advanced features. The update is huge and while it is simple to use, the company behind it has included features for power users.

Installing the Software in the Web Browser

Installing the software is simple. I just headed to the Ghostery website on my browser. I have Firefox installed but the extension works with Internet Explorer, Safari, Opera, Chrome and more.

Click on the “Install Ghostery” button and a popup will ask if you wish to install the extension. Click on allow and the extension is installed.

After installing the software a webpage opened offering me the option of a one-click set-up or custom. I chose one-click.

I found the one-click mode puts Ghostery into Smart Mode. This was perfect for me to begin with and probably will be for the majority of users. The software made all the choices for settings on my behalf. It adjusted the blockers so it would give me the best page load time and privacy.

How Does Ghostery Work?

After installing the software, I found an icon resides in the browser bar. Click on it and the software offers a choice of simple view or detailed.

I used the simple view when first installing the software. Once I got used to it and learned more about how to use it and what it did, I was curious and checked out the advanced view.

In the simple view, the software shows the page loading time and the number of trackers that were blocked. There are buttons to click either to allocate a web site to a trusted site, a restricted site or to pause the software from running.

I Tested the Software on My Own Website

As I browsed the internet, Ghostery kept a watchful eye over the web pages. To test if it was working I went to one of my own websites. While on that website, I clicked on the icon for the software and found it had blocked six trackers. These involved site analytics and social media.

Of course, I trusted these as they were on my personal website; however, it showed me how websites use trackers without you realizing it.

Sites track people through such as links, charts, video, ads and more. There can be numerous ways of sites tracking user’s movements on a single web page.

Ghostery Kills Tracking Ads Dead

One prime example of how sites track is through using ads.

After tracking habits of users online, including what people search for, targeted ads show in the browser. Some advertisers offer ads based on what you looked for in the past. Others offer ads based on the site visited. Either way, it means being watched while web browsing. Ghostery catches these ads and does away with tracking ads.

Again, I tested this using one of my personal website, which I know has advertising on it. When I visited it, the number showed elements blocked along with the components blocked. In addition, I found out the ads did not show on the webpage.

The Software Works in the Background

The software works in the background so I did not need to do anything. However, I did have the option of being able to intervene. I could trust the site, restrict the site or block all.

Ghostery also helps to keep users safe from social media tracking and site analytics. Again, it does this in the background with no need for the user to take action. Webmasters use site analytics to track site metrics along with the pages users have visited.

All trackers slow down the sites you visit making them load slower. Along with this, ads clutter websites. Ghostery avoids these issues by not permitting them to load. Overall, I found the software provides a browsing experience that is faster, cleaner and safer.

How is the Software Different from Cookie Blocking?

Ghostery is more than just a cookie blocker. However, the software does stop cookies getting onto the computer, which in turn helps to stop tracking.

Ghostery works differently from just blocking cookies in that it intercepts requests on the computer and does not permit communication.

The web browser is a much safer environment with the software installed.

Why You Might Want to Choose Ghostery

The latest version of the software, Ghostery 8, has artificial intelligence. This makes it one of the most advanced of its type and brings numerous benefits.

I found that a lot of ad-blocking software on the market works in the same way. This is typically by making a comparison of the scripts found on websites to a white list.  They either then block or allow them. With them working the same way, they all have the same downfalls. One of these is that if they have not come across before they cannot block.

The Ghostery Software Works Differently

Ghostery works differently. The software is able to work around that dilemma by way of artificial intelligence.

The software comes with artificial intelligent anti-tracking tech. It also features what the developers call a “Smart Mode”. Many people do not understand the settings of software so the smart mode is superb. I found it very useful when first installing it as the smart mode adjusts the settings. This means to enjoy the privacy protection that the software brings I did not need to change anything; it worked straight out of the box.

I was surprised to read that the developers of the software had found that 15% of web pages have at least ten trackers on a webpage.

These are all in the background so I would never have paid them much attention, but they would be watching what I did online. While web browsers such as Firefox have tracking blockers built-in, I still installed Ghostery. This is because I found out that the software offers a great deal more than the built in one.

Software Not Only Identifies Trackers but Also Type of Information They Track

One of the biggest reasons I chose to go with the software was the fact it not just identifies trackers, but also the information type tracked.

The head project manager of the software revealed they use a heuristic AI approach. This determines if the trackers send unsafe data. When it has decided, the software uses random information to overwrite sensitive data points before it reaches the third party. This means advertising elements remain unblocked but it does not jeopardize the user’s privacy. This feature is of great importance.

It is important, as there are some trackers needed for the performance of the website. If they were to be blocked it would affect the performance of the site. This is where the algorithms of the software come into play. It is partly what sets it apart from the built in blockers.

Ghostery Browser for Android and iOS

Ghostery is available for Firefox in Android but the company also offers a web browser for Android that has the software built in.

Just as the extension has received an update, so has the browser. I was intrigued to see how well it worked on Android as it does work well on Windows in Firefox.

The Ghostery Browser offers features such as:

  • Built-in tracker and ad-blocker;
  • Android privacy features that are enhanced;
  • A smart Ghost Search option;
  • A Ghost Mode;
  • Protection that is enhanced;
  • Curated websites start tab;
  • Data saver;
  • Password manager;
  • Font size adapter for easy reading.

I found that the Ghostery web browser is based on Firefox, which is my choice of browser for Android.

The only downside I found with the browser was that the default search engine was set to DuckDuckGo. However, I found it easy to modify this to my default Google.

Just as with the Windows version of Ghostery, I found the blocker is easy to understand on Android. If you are curious about what it is blocking, you can check it out. I also found it easy to change the settings to meet my needs.

I found the browser with blocking worked just as well on Android as it did on Windows. Ads were blocked and web pages are faster due to this. In addition, the biggest advantage, sites could no longer track me.

Conclusion

While there are numerous choices for privacy and ad blocking out there for adding to browsers, this one is different.  For one it has the backing of artificial intelligence.

While many ad blockers simply block out all ads, Ghostery does not. Instead, it hides confidential information while showing the tracking elements that might otherwise break a web page. I find this to be the best of both worlds.

Written by Mark Bynum

Mark Bynum is tech writer and WordPress enthusiast from Atlanta. He loves playing with latest tech gadgets and testing various products and services. When he is AFK, you can find him hiking somewhere in the woods.

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