At SXSW in 2014, Edward Snowden recommended Ghostery — a browser extension that lets users decide what advertisers can track — to people looking to beef up their online security.
The endorsement cultivated an entire cottage industry of for-profit ad-blockers, causing many skeptics to question the benevolence of companies like Ghostery and their complicated data-farming business models.
Now, Ghostery has officially made all of their code open source in an effort to promote transparency and resuscitate their consumer credibility.
Ad-blockers or data sellers?
Ad-blockers are businesses too. And, as it turns out, they aren’t that different from the very data-starved advertisers they’ve sworn to protect users from.
Ghostery, for example, paid the bills by getting users to share data about ad trackers they encountered on the web.
They would then turn around and sell that information to e-commerce websites, as a double agent of sorts: protecting users from thirsty advertisers by day, and selling their data by night.
Now they’re cleanin’ it up
Ghostery’s open-source software gives anyone the opportunity to copy, change, and improve their services.
They’re also changing their business model in an attempt to make money without betraying users’ trust. New revenue streams include a paid premium-tier product, plus a rewards program that serves up discounts as you browse the web.
Will Ghostery be able to blaze the trail into less shady ad-blocking territory? Maybe only Snowden knows for sure…