Private search browser Cliqz buys Ghostery ad-tracker tool


Mozilla-backed Cliqz, a German startup building an anti-tracking browser with a built-in private search feature powered by aggregated usage of its products, is acquiring the consumer assets of ad-tracker privacy tool and browser extension Ghostery. Terms of the all-cash deal have not been disclosed.

“By combining algorithmic and blocklist anti-tracking approaches, Cliqz and Ghostery will together further raise the benchmark in privacy protection,” Cliqz writes in a press release announcing the move.

Cliqz is acquiring Ghostery’s anti-tracking browser extensions and mobile apps, meaning it will be gaining the latter’s 10 million active users — hoping that will help spur international growth.

It’s not acquiring the company outright. Parent company Ghostery Inc, which is reverting to its prior name Evidon, will continue in what is described as an “enterprise-focused digital governance businesses” — focused on privacy compliance, including for ad industry groups wanting to adhere to the self-regulatory AdChoices program, but also for tracking compliance with compulsory privacy rules.

New York-based Evidon claims it’s seeing increased demand for its b2b digital governance services, pointing to incoming privacy regulations — such as the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which will bring in steeper fines for data breaches when it comes into force in 2018 — as spurring corporates to take a closer look at their processes.

“The EU’s GDPR in particular has catalyzed the need for digital governance and clients are approaching us with an increasing set of demands,” said Scott Meyer, CEO & co-founder in a statement.

Evidon will continue to be fed aggregated anonymous tracking data from opt-in users of the Cliqz-operated Ghostery products (which will also continue as standalones, as before, via the suite of browser extensions and Ghostery Android and iOS mobile apps). “This deal will ensure that clients retain access to Ghostery data about trackers, and enable Evidon to focus exclusively on the significantly growing B2B market,” added Meyer.

The combined algorithmic and blocklist anti-tracking approaches will be merged by Cliqz into a new tech that will be implemented across both Ghostery-branded and Cliqz-branded products. Cliqz reckons the combined tech will “improve website loading time by blocking common trackers and protect users from increasingly aggressive data gathering methods”.

At this point Cliqz has about 1M monthly active users via its Firefox extension and standalone desktop and mobile browsers.

And while it’s been mostly focused on German-speaking markets to date, it’s actively stepping up efforts to grow beyond that — recently launching a beta version of its browser in France, and with designs on a US launch in the near future (it says it’s also added beta support for US-English for its quick-search feature).

Cliqz says it’s hoping ownership of Ghostery’s assets will help it accelerate its products into other markets. “We plan to launch in the US and some Western European markets soon,” says a spokesman. “The Ghostery acquisition will be a big help. Ghostery users around the world can opt-in to contribute anonymous statistical data via our Human Web technology.

“We will use this data to build web indexes for other countries/languages, so that our core product Cliqz quick-search will be able to support other markets quickly.”

Of US-English quick-search results, he adds: “The quality of the US search results will be satisfying at the start and with the help of Human Web quickly will improve quickly to reach the same level as in German.”

He also confirmed Ghostery’s former parent will not have direct access to Ghostery generated user data, going forward. “Ghostery users will be able to contribute data voluntarily and strictly anonymously to Cliqz,” he said, noting that the data collection process in Ghostery products will be changed to Cliqz’s Human Web technology (i.e. its aggregated, anonymized data collection process).

“Human Web is built on privacy-by-design-principles. It rules out that any PII [personally identifiable information] is stored on Cliqz’s or Ghostery’s servers,” he adds. “Cliqz will provide Evidon with a subset of the data that enables Evidon to continue their B2B services.

“Basically, Evidon will only get aggregated data about trackers (a “map of trackers“). Which trackers are on a website? How prevalent is the tracker in the web? No information about users whatsoever. Cliqz and Ghostery will never share any data about individual users with anyone. (Even if we wanted, we wouldn’t be able to, as we don’t store any.)”

Cliqz has previously discussed its plans to monetize this pro-privacy approach and usage of its free, anti-tracking browser and search products via a companion Cliqz Offers app — that will be designed to broadcast all offers to all users so Cliqz does not need to track individuals’ browsing habits to power ad targeting. Rather tracking of browsing habits occurs locally, on a user’s device, allowing for the tech to display pertinent offers to users without Cliqz itself needing to be party to its users’ browsing behavior.

The Cliqz Offers app has not launched yet, but the spokesman noted it is now working with its first pilot customers to launch their first campaigns — saying a soft launch is coming soon and the official launch is planned for later this year.

As well as hoping the acquisition of the Ghostery consumer business will boost Cliqz global user-base, Cliqz says it’s negotiating with other potential partners, naming entities such as anti-virus companies and mobile carriers as those it’s seeking to work with to try to raise its profile.

The Munich-based startup has been majority-owned by international media and tech company Hubert Burda Media since 2013.

More TechCrunch

Blue Origin has successfully completed its NS-25 mission, resuming crewed flights for the first time in nearly two years. The mission brought six tourist crew members to the edge of…

Blue Origin successfully launches its first crewed mission since 2022

Creative Artists Agency (CAA), one of the top entertainment and sports talent agencies, is hoping to be at the forefront of AI protection services for celebrities in Hollywood. With many…

Hollywood agency CAA aims to help stars manage their own AI likenesses

Expedia says Rathi Murthy and Sreenivas Rachamadugu, respectively its CTO and senior vice president of core services product & engineering, are no longer employed at the travel booking company. In…

Expedia says two execs dismissed after ‘violation of company policy’

Welcome back to TechCrunch’s Week in Review. This week had two major events from OpenAI and Google. OpenAI’s spring update event saw the reveal of its new model, GPT-4o, which…

OpenAI and Google lay out their competing AI visions

When Jeffrey Wang posted to X asking if anyone wanted to go in on an order of fancy-but-affordable office nap pods, he didn’t expect the post to go viral.

With AI startups booming, nap pods and Silicon Valley hustle culture are back

OpenAI’s Superalignment team, responsible for developing ways to govern and steer “superintelligent” AI systems, was promised 20% of the company’s compute resources, according to a person from that team. But…

OpenAI created a team to control ‘superintelligent’ AI — then let it wither, source says

A new crop of early-stage startups — along with some recent VC investments — illustrates a niche emerging in the autonomous vehicle technology sector. Unlike the companies bringing robotaxis to…

VCs and the military are fueling self-driving startups that don’t need roads

When the founders of Sagetap, Sahil Khanna and Kevin Hughes, started working at early-stage enterprise software startups, they were surprised to find that the companies they worked at were trying…

Deal Dive: Sagetap looks to bring enterprise software sales into the 21st century

Keeping up with an industry as fast-moving as AI is a tall order. So until an AI can do it for you, here’s a handy roundup of recent stories in the world…

This Week in AI: OpenAI moves away from safety

After Apple loosened its App Store guidelines to permit game emulators, the retro game emulator Delta — an app 10 years in the making — hit the top of the…

Adobe comes after indie game emulator Delta for copying its logo

Meta is once again taking on its competitors by developing a feature that borrows concepts from others — in this case, BeReal and Snapchat. The company is developing a feature…

Meta’s latest experiment borrows from BeReal’s and Snapchat’s core ideas

Welcome to Startups Weekly! We’ve been drowning in AI news this week, with Google’s I/O setting the pace. And Elon Musk rages against the machine.

Startups Weekly: It’s the dawning of the age of AI — plus,  Musk is raging against the machine

IndieBio’s Bay Area incubator is about to debut its 15th cohort of biotech startups. We took special note of a few, which were making some major, bordering on ludicrous, claims…

IndieBio’s SF incubator lineup is making some wild biotech promises

YouTube TV has announced that its multiview feature for watching four streams at once is now available on Android phones and tablets. The Android launch comes two months after YouTube…

YouTube TV’s ‘multiview’ feature is now available on Android phones and tablets

Featured Article

Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

CSC ServiceWorks provides laundry machines to thousands of residential homes and universities, but the company ignored requests to fix a security bug.

2 days ago
Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

TechCrunch Disrupt 2024 is just around the corner, and the buzz is palpable. But what if we told you there’s a chance for you to not just attend, but also…

Harness the TechCrunch Effect: Host a Side Event at Disrupt 2024

Decks are all about telling a compelling story and Goodcarbon does a good job on that front. But there’s important information missing too.

Pitch Deck Teardown: Goodcarbon’s $5.5M seed deck

Slack is making it difficult for its customers if they want the company to stop using its data for model training.

Slack under attack over sneaky AI training policy

A Texas-based company that provides health insurance and benefit plans disclosed a data breach affecting almost 2.5 million people, some of whom had their Social Security number stolen. WebTPA said…

Healthcare company WebTPA discloses breach affecting 2.5 million people

Featured Article

Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Microsoft won’t be facing antitrust scrutiny in the U.K. over its recent investment into French AI startup Mistral AI.

2 days ago
Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Ember has partnered with HSBC in the U.K. so that the bank’s business customers can access Ember’s services from their online accounts.

Embedded finance is still trendy as accounting automation startup Ember partners with HSBC UK

Kudos uses AI to figure out consumer spending habits so it can then provide more personalized financial advice, like maximizing rewards and utilizing credit effectively.

Kudos lands $10M for an AI smart wallet that picks the best credit card for purchases

The EU’s warning comes after Microsoft failed to respond to a legally binding request for information that focused on its generative AI tools.

EU warns Microsoft it could be fined billions over missing GenAI risk info

The prospects for troubled banking-as-a-service startup Synapse have gone from bad to worse this week after a United States Trustee filed an emergency motion on Wednesday.  The trustee is asking…

A US Trustee wants troubled fintech Synapse to be liquidated via Chapter 7 bankruptcy, cites ‘gross mismanagement’

U.K.-based Seraphim Space is spinning up its 13th accelerator program, with nine participating companies working on a range of tech from propulsion to in-space manufacturing and space situational awareness. The…

Seraphim’s latest space accelerator welcomes nine companies

OpenAI has reached a deal with Reddit to use the social news site’s data for training AI models. In a blog post on OpenAI’s press relations site, the company said…

OpenAI inks deal to train AI on Reddit data

X users will now be able to discover posts from new Communities that are trending directly from an Explore tab within the section.

X pushes more users to Communities

For Mark Zuckerberg’s 40th birthday, his wife got him a photoshoot. Zuckerberg gives the camera a sly smile as he sits amid a carefully crafted re-creation of his childhood bedroom.…

Mark Zuckerberg’s makeover: Midlife crisis or carefully crafted rebrand?

Strava announced a slew of features, including AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, a new ‘family’ subscription plan, dark mode and more.

Strava taps AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, unveils ‘family’ plan, dark mode and more

We all fall down sometimes. Astronauts are no exception. You need to be in peak physical condition for space travel, but bulky space suits and lower gravity levels can be…

Astronauts fall over. Robotic limbs can help them back up.