It’s been almost a year since Burda’s Cliqz search technology became part of the US company Brave Software. In an interview, Jean-Paul Schmetz, founder of Cliqz, explains more about the search technology.
At the end of April, Burda had to announce the closure of key areas of Cliqz - a Munich-based start-up that has been pursuing the vision of an open internet in which people have control over their data and are not spied on for economic interests. With its innovations, Cliqz has proven that it is technically possible to counter the big tech giants such as Google with products focused on data privacy made in Germany. Many of these innovations are still in use all over the world as Ghostery, a 100% Cliqz subsidiary, continues to bundle Cliqz' expertise in the anti-tracking sector.
We spoke with Jeremy Tillman, President of Ghostery, about how the cooperation with Cliqz has changed and what impact the Corona crisis has had on privacy on the internet.
Ghostery will continue to bundle Cliqz's anti-tracking expertise. Could you share more details on your future mission?
Ghostery’s mission is to build products to protect, educate, and empower users to take back control of their online experiences. This means giving our users tools, including many technologies developed by Cliqz, to detect and block unwanted ads and data collection. Ghostery is prepared to be a leading face and voice in the Burda family and beyond, to drive the company’s mission in restoring users’ digital privacy rights!
Has your daily work changed since the closure of key areas of Cliqz? How do you still collaborate with the Cliqz team in Germany?
We have worked closely with the Cliqz team since the company acquired Ghostery in 2017. So the most obvious is that we shared a lot of operational infrastructure, all of which we’ve had to replace. Additionally, there were some joint collaborations around products and technology that we are in the process of transitioning in-house. That said, we still have strategic and ongoing collaborations with Cliqz that involve some of their core technologies they developed that we still use, including our mobile browsers as well as our adblocking and antitracking technology.
Could you give us an update on Ghostery users worldwide with a breakdown for Europe and Germany? What are your milestones for 2020?
Ghostery has almost 10 million users worldwide and 45% of those are in the EU, with 15% in Germany alone. To that end, our European userbase is hugely important to us, and meeting its needs is critical to our long-term success. In regards to our milestones for 2020 and beyond, our mission is to expand the Ghostery umbrella of privacy protection to wherever individuals connect to the internet, which increasingly includes applications and technologies that operate outside the desktop and mobile browser.
The global Corona pandemic has hit the US the hardest. How have you managed to keep the show on the road?
It has been challenging to keep things going in the US, particularly in New York City, which was arguably hit harder by the coronavirus than anywhere else in the world. That said, as a digital-first company, we have successfully become a 100% remote workforce, with all employees currently working from home. I think we have been pleasantly surprised at how well we have maintained our productivity without the benefit of a physical office or in-person collaboration. That said, we all definitely miss each other and it has been a challenge to maintain our culture and our close bonds of friendship. To do that, we have gotten creative in doing digital team events, like virtual happy hours, movie nights, and (yes) even a Pilates class!
Is Corona putting users’ privacy even more at risk as it is accelerating the digitalization?
As more people work from home during the pandemic, the line between a person’s digital work-life and digital private life has been blurred, which creates new vulnerabilities for digital privacy. Unless you have two dedicated machines in your home, you’re likely blending your work activities (email, cloud software, video calls) with personal activities (shopping, reading articles, researching health questions) using the same computer. This gives third-party companies new opportunities to create even more detailed profiles using your personal information, which may make individuals more susceptible to invasive and targeted advertising. In this new landscape, Ghostery sees it as our responsibility to continue our mission to protect, empower, and educate our users so that anyone can maintain their privacy, even as we enter a new kind of normal.