BreakingModern — Today’s app pick is a new browser from the people who bring you all the Ghostery extensions for all the popular web browsers. Ghostery Privacy Browser on Google Play wants you to browse the web without sharing your data. Considering Ghostery is an ad company, that’s a pretty funny mission statement.
But, truth be told, Ghostery looks like it’s on the right side of things. Then again, Google is also an ad company, and it makes all sorts of great tools for us. So, is another ad-based browser what we need? I think it might be, if it does what it says it does and lets you choose what tracks you and what doesn’t on a per-website basis.
The first thing I noticed when I installed Ghostery is the lack of permissions it asks for. In today’s modern age of “Ask for more just in case,” we’re getting too used to seeing the never-ending list of permissions that apps want from us. We’re also getting far too click fatigued, and hence clicking right on through without really reading what’s going on. I guess it doesn’t really matter, since at that point you’ve already committed to the app. It could ask permission to take your first born and also take your least-favorite organ, and you’d click through without a thought. I guess what I’m saying is that for most people, it won’t matter, but it’s nice the developers took this into consideration.
When you first start up Ghostery for Android, it takes you to a screen asking if you want to participate in Ghostrank. Here is the ad-company side of the business. Let’s tap more and see what Ghost Rank has to say:
“Help support Ghostery by sending anonymous statistical data back to Ghostery HQ. When you enable Ghostrank, Ghostery collects anonymous data about the trackers you’ve encountered and the sites on which they were placed. This data is about tracking elements and the webpages on which they are found, not you, or your browsing habits.”
Well, that makes me feel a little better. It isn’t about tracking me or my habits, only tracking stuff on sites I go to. I guess you could twist that to end up meaning you and your browsing habits, but like I said, it doesn’t really matter in the long run. If you are truly that concerned about privacy, surfing the Internet on a smartphone is probably the last thing you should be doing. Tap next and move on.
The next option we’re asked about is blocking. Not only can Ghostery tell you what’s going on in a page, but it can also block those elements from ever loading in the first place. I promise if you enable this full blast, it will break the majority of the websites you visit on a daily basis. Nothing will work. So, be careful when messing around with this. It tells you to read more if you’re interested in enabling this feature:
“Keep in mind that some trackers are potentially useful, such as social network feed widgets or browser-based games, so blocking may have an unintended effect on the sites you visit.”
Of course this is all adjustable again, after the fact, by tapping the Ghostery icon while browsing. For the sake of this app pick, I’ll turn Ghostrank on, and Blocking off.
Ghostery performs about as well as Chrome does, maybe a little slower on sites that have a lot of trackers blocked, but that’s to be expected. It’s based on the WebView engine. This is definitely going to lag on slower older devices, especially when blocking lots of trackers. Keep that in mind, and as always, your use will vary. I also would like to know how it has Duck Duck Go as the default search engine. Duck Duck Go is cute. Ducks in real life aren’t so cute (I was pecked by ducks as an infant). But ya gotta love the marketing.
Hidden Trackers. Count ‘Em!
If you’ve ever used the Ghostery extensions for Chrome or Firefox or even Safari and Opera, then you already have an idea of what this will be like. For the super-privacy conscious, or just the overly curious, Ghostery has been showing us all the naughty hidden tracker bits that get blitzkrieged at our browsers every time we visit a website.
Let’s use our very own BreakingModern as an example. Go there on Chrome for Android and you get a lovely mobile browsing experience. Go there on Ghostery, and guess what? It’s the same exact lovely mobile browsing experience, but with an added feature.
See the Ghostery icon? It has the number 6 by it. That means Ghostery found six trackers on the page. Tap that and you can see what is what — turn them on or off, pause blocking or whitelist the site entirely.
Let’s see how that is compared to my Android show site, Attack of the Androids. Only five there. Not bad.
Now let’s take a look at a more-popular site. Let’s try Mashable. Go to Mashable in your Ghostery browser, and watch the numbers light up. 25 is my count. Getting up there. Let’s try TechCrunch.
There we go — 45. Of course, we would expect that from a site whose sole business model seems to be getting as many clicks from as many people as possible, then looking at all that info and selling it to the highest bidder. I kid, I kid. I’m sure that’s really not what its business model is, but its trackers suggest otherwise. I don’t fault TechCrunch, it’s just what that industry has become since the early days of yellow journalism.
We should play a game in the Comments section below. In three tries, what is the highest tracker count you can find? 45 is the number to beat!
All in all I would say Ghostery is a good alternative to Chrome if you are more concerned about privacy. For me it comes down to out of sight, out of mind, so I’d rather just not worry about it. See what I did there? Of course you did. I know the sites I frequent are looking at my every click and hover. And you know what? I’m ok with that.
You can get Ghostery for Android on Google Play and Apple iOS. Check out its download page for the rest of the goods. You should also watch this video it made for the Ghostery YouTube channel. I don’t know about you, but I don’t ever want to be tracked by the Pizza Preference Partnership.
Featured image/All screenshots: Mat Lee