Ghostery Browser Plugin Reveals Every Company That Tracks You

True privacy online is hard to come by, especially because once you entrust a company with your data, the whole Internet usually learns a thing or two about you.

Ghostery is an Internet browser plug-in that determines which companies are tracking you on every website you visit — and lets you do something about them. Tom's Guide stopped by Ghostery's booth at SXSW 2014 to learn more about how the program works.

Companies track users online more often than they think. A single site may have ads from a dozen different providers, as well as social media widgets that retain login information and separate video providers that embed themselves into a website.

MORE: 13 Security and Privacy Tips for the Truly Paranoid

Being tracked is not necessarily a bad thing; after all, it's convenient for a site to let you log in via your Facebook account, or to watch a video from YouTube right in the middle of a news story. Still, Ghostery wanted to provide users with a way to see just how many eyes are on them, and to give them the option to do something about it.

Users can download Ghostery for free from its website and install it for any major browser. After that, clicking on the plugin's icon will bring up a list of trackers on each site. Companies that track users often provide nothing more than harmless analytics or widgets, but Ghostery can also pinpoint and disable intrusive or potentially dangerous ads.

After bringing up Ghostery's list of trackers, users can then enable or disable each one individually, and can pause blocking temporarily or choose to whitelist an entire site. Clicking on a tracker's name will also reveal more information about the company behind it, including whether or not the tracker poses any danger.

Although Ghostery is free, it does not require user donations to keep running. Rather, many major companies have lost track of exactly how many trackers operate through their websites, and pay Ghostery to put together reports. Simply by using Ghostery and opting to share your information, you are already paying your dues to the program.

If you want to be granular with your Internet privacy rather than just blocking every ad outright, Ghostery provides a simple, comprehensive tool to do so. Just try not to be shocked when you see how many advertisers track you via your favorite sites.

Follow Marshall Honorof @marshallhonorofand on Google+. Follow us @tomsguide, on Facebook and on Google+.

Marshall Honorof

Marshall Honorof is a senior editor for Tom's Guide, overseeing the site's coverage of gaming hardware and software. He comes from a science writing background, having studied paleomammalogy, biological anthropology, and the history of science and technology. After hours, you can find him practicing taekwondo or doing deep dives on classic sci-fi. 

  • vipersporthp
    I have been using Ghostery for months .This is this page alone:AT InternetAnalyticsDoubleClickAdvertisingGigya SocializeWidgetsGoogle AnalyticsAnalyticsGoogle Tag ManagerWidgetsLotameBeaconsOutbrainWidgetsVibrant AdsAdvertising
  • excella1221
    Great find. Cool plug-in.Ironically though, it's now detecting 21 trackers from Toms. :P
  • cryogenic
    On Tom's I'm tracked by: AdRollAlmondNetAMP PlatformAppNexusAT InternetBizoBounce ExchangeCross Pixel MediaDatalogixDoubleClickeStateXelateFacebook ConnectFacebook Social GraphFacebook Social PluginsGigya SocializeGoogle +1Google AdsenseGoogle AdWords ConversionGoogle AnalyticsGoogle Tag ManagerLotameMediaMathNetRatings SiteCensusQuantcastRight MediaScoreCard Research BeaconSimpli.fiTwitter ButtonThanks Tom's!
  • icepick314
    So how is Ghostery compared to DoNotTrackMe?I've been using DNTM and so far I think it's okay warning me about trackings on websites.Pretty sure all those tracking companies hate these kinds of software and plugins like Ghostery, DNTM, and Adblock Plus....
  • oyoy
    Certainly be interesting to read a thorough comparative article that summarizes the other 5-10 leading plugins in the field, including conflicts between multiple plugs, achievements (cons/pros) and choosing the number one recommendation (In a similar vein to other articles on the site).* Is there any conflicts during additional plugins running in parallel (eg. AdBlock-Mask Me)?
  • MoonMe2
    I didn't know of this plug-in. I'm trying it now and I must say, that my load times have definitely improved. And scrolling with the mouse wheel is much smoother. Weird.Do these tracking thingies really affect browser performance?
  • dalethepcman
    ghostery, ad block plus, script safe, no flash ftw
  • das_stig
    Ghostery has been around for a long time and although some may find this article interesting, it is just lazy article. Would have been of more benefit to actually have done a comparison of privacy plugins across the main browsers !