Ghostery Turns Anti-Tracking Tool Into Full-Blown Privacy Browser

Ghostery was one of the earliest, and has been one of the most popular, anti-tracking tools for desktop web browsers, helping Internet users stop advertisers from tracking their online habits without their consent.

The tool works quite well on the desktop. However, on mobile platforms such as Android, most browsers don't have extension support. It seems Ghostery thought it would be easier for people interested in blocking ad tracking to just install its privacy-friendly browser, which is now available for Android.

The Ghostery browser seems to be built on top of Android's WebView (which is based on Chromium), and it has a standard tab-based interface. The browser gives you a range of options to block all trackers by default or not, or to selectively block or whitelist some of them.

The Ghostery browser also comes with the DuckDuckGo search engine set as default, which is another nice privacy-friendly feature. If you'd rather use Google, Yahoo or Bing, you can select any of them as well.

Ghostery has another feature called "GhostRank," which users can enable to send anonymous information about the trackers being blocked. According to Ghostery, this can be used to improve the anti-tracking service. However, there are voices that say Ghostery gives this (anonymous) data to advertisers as well, and thus those entities can then use the data either to improve their ads so they don't have to be blocked by users anymore, or as some say, to create ads that are Ghostery-blocking resistant.

Users who block all trackers by default may want to be careful, because it may cause incompatibilities with some sites. Users should at least be aware that when a site isn't working, the problem may be caused by Ghostery.

For now, Ghostery remains a tool that can only stop web ad tracking, but not tracking from mobile ads. As Disconnect Mobile has learned recently, Google isn't willing to make that easy for such tools, and it has been trying to limit what anti-tracking tools can do to mobile ads.

Blocking intrusive tracking from web ads is still a step in the right direction for mobile, as well as Ghostery and other tools like it, and it's a good thing for users who don't like being tracked that they're focusing their investment in mobile right now.

The Ghostery browser is available in the Google Play Store.

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Lucian Armasu
Lucian Armasu is a Contributing Writer for Tom's Hardware US. He covers software news and the issues surrounding privacy and security.