The maker of the popular anti-tracking browser extension Ghostery debuted a new service on Tuesday that it says will thwart third-party trackers, such as those found on Spotify and Microsoft Outlook, that capture location and web activity within desktop apps.
The product, called Midnight, costs $15 per month and is only for desktop apps such as Slack and Apple Mail, according to Ghostery. But the company says it is viewing Midnight as the first step toward bringing the same feature set to mobile apps (a $55 billion world of advertising, according to Sensor Tower data).
“There are some applications where it feels like the wild west,” Jeremy Tillman, president of Ghostery, says in regards to how apps collect data. He adds that Midnight can prevent tracking metrics in emails, such as “click-throughs and open rates.”
It would prevent a company like Google DoubleClick or MailChimp from capturing data about whether someone opened an email or clicked on a link while using the app. Midnight also prevents trackers from collecting a user’s location data and blocks ads, including those from email such as Microsoft Outlook, Spotify and Hulu. Ghostery adds that Midnight has a built-in virtual private network, or VPN, that anonymizes a person’s IP address, location and browsing information.
With a steep price tag and a use case that strictly applies to desktop, Midnight likely won’t cause too much havoc on marketers. But an introduction to mobile does have the potential to create a nightmare scenario similar to what ad blockers already achieved in years past. Nearly $108 billion was spent on digital advertising in the U.S. for the 2018 calendar year and, of that, 65 percent went toward mobile, according to the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s annual revenue report.
Tillman says Midnight will only block third-party trackers, or those that aren’t from the app makers themselves. “If we blocked first-party trackers the apps would stop working,” he says. “We don’t mess around with first-party data collection.”
“We’ve moved what we’ve done for the browser and offered the same protection to apps,” he adds.