Evidon Sells Ghostery To Mozilla-Backed German Browser Developer

Privacy compliance company Evidon has sold the ad-blocker Ghostery to the search engine and browser developer Cliqz GmbH, a German company owned by Hubert Burda Media and Mozilla.

Evidon, which re-branded as Ghostery in 2014, is now resuming use of the Evidon brand name. The company intends to focus on helping businesses comply with privacy rules, including Europe's relatively tough General Data Protection Regulation, and upcoming e-Privacy legislation, as well as the U.S. ad industry's voluntary self-regulatory program.

"We felt the best way for Ghostery to achieve its maximum value and Evidon, separately, to achieve its maximum value, was not to be owned by the same company any more," Evidon CEO Scott Meyer said Wednesday. "This lets Ghostery be inside a parent company that is 100% focused on business-to-consumer solutions, and is an opportunity for us to focus 100% on business-to-business."

Mozilla purchased a minority stake in Cliqz last August. At the time, Mozilla stated that Cliqz's "privacy-by-design architecture technology guarantees that no personal data or personally identifiable information is transmitted or saved on its servers."

Evidon will continue to serve as one of two companies that licenses the Digital Advertising Alliance's AdChoices icon -- the centerpiece of the industry's self-regulatory privacy program. The AdChoices licenses account for around 45% of Evidon's current enterprise business, Meyer says.

Evidon's business-to-business enterprise services, including helping advertisers comply with global privacy rules, accounts for the other 55%. Privacy compliance currently appears to be a field ripe for growth, especially given Europe's relatively stringent data protection laws. Jules Polonetsky, CEO of the industry-funded think tank Future of Privacy Forum, says that some of the savviest companies are now "investing in the technologies needed for better data management and privacy compliance."

Evidon retained ownership over a key piece of Ghostery's intellectual property -- its database of domains that serve third-party ads and trackers. Ghostery's ad-blocking extension relies on that script library to enable users to block ads and trackers. The Better Business Bureau's online accountability program, which enforces the industry's self-regulatory privacy code, also uses the script library to investigate companies' privacy practices.

Evidon is licensing the script library back to Ghostery, but Cliqz is prohibited from using the database in anything other than Ghostery or Cliqz branded products, according to Meyer.

"It can't be used in a Mozilla product or licensed out to anyone else," Meyer says.

In the past, Ghostery licensed its domain database to the developer of ad blocker Peace -- a $2.99 app that skyrocketed o the top of Apple's paid app list after it was released in 2015.

Several days after the app was released, the developer pulled it from the iTunes store. Meyer said at the time that Peace's approach "doesn't give the user the level of granularity and control that we think is consistently with the Ghostery brand."

Ghostery also collects data from users who have opted in to the company's panel. The company will license that aggregated panel data back to Evidon, Meyer says.

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