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Cliqz expands its private search offering - acquires rival Ghostery

Marc Al Hames ()

In one of the most intriguing media deals of recent months German startup Cliqz, which has an anti-tracking browser with private search features, has acquired some of the assets and the users of ad-tracker privacy tool and browser extension Ghostery.

Here Marc Al-Hames, managing director at Cliqz, gives us the background to the deal profiling the strengths of the two companies while outlining a few of his plans for the future.

Marc will be looking at issues surrounding audience tracking and private browsing at DIS on the first day of the conference.

DIS 2017 in Berlin

The 10th Digital Innovators’ Summit 2017 takes place from 19-21 March (main Summit on 20 and 21 March) in Berlin, Germany. DIS is organised by FIPP, the network for global media, and VDZ, the German Publishers Association. See more at innovators-summit.com. See the preliminary agenda (soon to be updated again) here and list of more than 70 speakers so far confirmed here. Standard rates are available until 16 March.

Firstly give me some background to the deal - how did it come about? Give me a little information about the two companies and their synergies.

Cliqz stands for privacy, openness, independence and transparency. We do this by innovating to allow both big data and privacy. We aim to offer a real alternative to the internet platforms that dominate the market today. The core features of the Cliqz browsers and browser extensions are quick search and privacy protection. Users can anonymously search the web directly in the browser and bypass traditional search engine result pages. At the same time each Cliqz user helps to make the privacy protection and search better by our innovative Human Web algorithm. And Cliqz anti-tracking protects the user effectively from being monitored by the third tracking scripts that hide on most of the websites. This way we make sure that neither we at Cliqz, nor any third parties know what you do in the web.

Anti-tracking is where Ghostery comes into play. Ghostery detects and blocks tracking technologies on the websites you visit to speed up page loads, eliminate clutter, and protect your data and privacy. The two companies’ anti-tracking-technologies are different, both have their specific strengths.

From a strategic point of view what will the deal enable Cliqz to do?

By combining Cliqz’s algorithmic and Ghostery’s blocklist anti-tracking approaches, we will together further raise the benchmark in privacy protection. The acquisition of Ghostery’s 10 million active users around the globe will spur Cliqz’s international growth.

Explain your monetisation approach with Cliqz Offers? 

Cliqz stands for uncompromising data protection. Our Human Web technology and proxy server make it technically impossible for us to know who our users are, what they do or build a profile on them on our servers. This is open sourced and hence is reviewed regularly. We call this privacy by design. This principle applies to our business model as well. We are currently developing a platform which serves users product and service offerings that reflect their current buying intention just at the right time. Cliqz Offers is designed to maintain the users’ privacy by shifting the knowledge about their intent from the server-side to the client-side.

How are EU's directives influencing the direction of your business?

We built Cliqz and Ghostery to protect the users’ privacy and give them innovative products. As we don’t collect any personal data or any data about individual users at all, we go far beyond the requirements of EU (or any other know to us) privacy regulations. 

Is Germany still the key market for privacy protection software? What other markets show promise?

I think it depends on the level of awareness for the topic, which is constantly changing. When it comes to the exploitation of private data for business purposes, the level of awareness is only growing slowly. The industry is pretty smart in lulling us into a sense of security. And around the world most users are still left in the dark about the size of these data profiling efforts and the negative consequences of server site profiles. However we do see a raising interest: though Germans are probably especially careful around their data, we see the demand for privacy globally and if you look for example at Ghostery’s user base, Germany is not the biggest market. 

How important do you think private search will be to the future of the web?

Browsers and search are the yin and yang of an open and free internet. Without the browser, no web page can be rendered. Without web search, today’s Internet becomes nearly impossible to navigate. Users depend on these two pieces. Having multiple choices for the user is therefore utterly important. This especially includes choice around business models and handling of data. Some users might feel well using products that are less private, but our mission is to offer a choice for those who care and want to be in control. We at Cliqz go the hard way and build our own web index and monetisation platform. It’s a big effort but it’s the only way to offer a truly independent alternative. We believe this is one big piece of a better web.

Many of the themes Marc discusses in this article will feature prominently at the 2017 Digital Innovators’ Summit in Berlin. For more information click here. Standard rates are available until 16 March 2017.

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