First time users of Ghostery often experience moments of shock and surprise when they visit sites with a substantial number of third-party trackers. The Purple Box pops up with a long list of companies that aren’t familiar, and the concept of the invisible web is immediately clear to the person that’s just been given a peek behind the scenes. But often, those names are familiar. Some common tracking technologies provide visible, usable tools in exchange for tracking. Social buttons, comment forms and video players are all visible tools with invisible tracking.
Ghostery thinks of these things as trackers, even if they’re also there for some other purpose. Most of these trackers can be found in the widgets category in our blocking options menu. If you block them, your web experience may seem “broken”. It’s easy, when comparing privacy tools, to think of a seamless browsing experience as a plus, and we sometimes hear that people prefer their web experience with other tools because it seems less interrupted.
But that line of thinking can be dangerous. Your web browsing experience is only interrupted if you’re blocking trackers. There are several ways we try to limit the difficulties blocking might cause. We often employ “surrogate” scripts in cases where the browser might wait for a blocked script to respond. We’ve introduced click-to-play features in Ghostery for Firefox, which show you when a script that might otherwise be usable has been removed from the page. And you always have the option to change your blocking settings if you’d rather have things go smoothly (look for a more detailed post about what to do when the web doesn’t work like you’d expect soon). But what we won’t do is decide for you that you’d rather make a comment than be protected from tracking, or that you’d rather see a video than to keep your cookies clean.
There’s nothing wrong with deciding you’d like to block less to browse smoothly, but it’s important to understand the trade-off in those situations. And if a privacy tool is blocking everything it can, and your browsing experience isn’t interrupted at all, then it is placing a higher value on function than on privacy – without asking you first. Ghostery doesn’t make decisions for you – so if you block everything, we’re going to block everything. That might mean some web pages doesn’t work the way you’d expect – but we feel that if blocking doesn’t break things, it’s not trying hard enough.