Cliqz, a Mozilla-Backed Search Engine, Buys Privacy Extension Ghostery

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Cliqz homepage
Cliqz homepage

Ghostery has sold its popular anti-tracking extension for an undisclosed amount in an all-cash deal to Germany-based Cliqz, a private search browser that intends to use Ghostery to help it expand into the U.S.

Ghostery has two products: its browser extension, which is mainly used by consumers; and its B2B offering, which helps publishers and marketers organize and make sense of all the ad tech that's under the hood of any given website. The B2B portion will be rebranded as Evidon and was not included in the sale.

Evidon will also retain aggregated data about trackers from Cliqz, the company said.

The sale couldn't come at a better time for Ghostery, as it's recently come under fire by marketers who claim it has two different faces: one that powers the Digital Advertising Alliance's AdChoices program and another that behaves similar to an ad blocker.

Scott Meyer, CEO of Evidon, said the Ghostery extension is the web's most popular consumer privacy tool, but adds one of its use cases can also be blocking ads. However, he says the extension "has never blocked anything by default."

Ghostery will now be managed and operated by Cliqz.
Ghostery will now be managed and operated by Cliqz.

Mr. Meyer explains his decision to sell Ghostery to Cliqz was partly fueled by the General Data Protection Regulation in Europe as well as a call to action toward the ad industry to get the digital marketing supply chain under control. He also added that Cliqz was a natural fit for the anti-tracking extension.

"You saw it two weeks ago when the CMO of Procter and Gamble, Marc Pritchard, said the digital marketing supply chain is a mess," Mr. Meyer said. "Well, there's about $400 billion spent on digital marketing and technology media. That is a big enough market that our company, Evidon, needs to focus on 100%."

Cliqz has made a name for itself in Germany as the browser of choice among users who don't want advertisers to track their data.

German publishing tycoon Hubert Burda Media and Firefox parent Mozilla both have a stake in Cliqz, which has a self-proclaimed 1 million monthly active users across desktop and mobile.

Although it does not allow extensions to be installed, Cliqz does have an anti-tracking and ad blocking feature built into its browser, with the latter turned off by default. Cliqz will manage and update the Ghostery extension, as well as integrate it into its browser and mobile app.

Cliqz also has its own search engine, which can only be accessed from a URL box within the browser. Search results do not appear on a separate web page, but in a drop-down format from the URL.

The company is adamant that it is not an ad blocker, but rather a pro-privacy browser for consumers.

"We have no strong opinion for or against advertising," said Marc Al-Hames, CEO of Cliqz. "We believe the future of the free internet requries advertisements, but what we don't like is the privacy invasion that comes with it. And that is a big difference."

The company said it hasn't decided how it will monetize its platform as it prepares to expand into the U.S.

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