Ghostrank logs every visited URL in clear

October 1, 2012

While debugging a rather strange encoding problem on Defora, I fired up Tamper- Data to have a clean log of the ongoing requests. Doing this, I also noticed that another add-on I use, namely Ghostery, was sending every page URI to their HTTP API. No big deal here, since this is part of the Ghostrank feature, and AFAIK you have to opt-in to activate it:

GhostRank sends anonymous statistical information about the trackers, ads, and other scripts that Ghostery encounters and the pages on which they’re found. It does not make use of browser cookies or flash cookies and stores no unique information about the user (not even an IP address).

Ghostery uses this information to create panel data about the proliferation of these scripts and shares this data with the Ghostery community, companies interested in measuring their own activity and compliance with privacy standards across the web, and organizations dedicated to holding these companies accountable. GhostRank data is not used to target advertising and is never shared for that purpose. For more details on exactly what GhostRank collects, please visit our FAQ.

By participating in GhostRank, you’re agreeing to become part of this anonymous panel and you’re helping to support Ghostery as you browse the web.

Ghostery’s great, I’ve been using it for a while, and Ghostrank looks innocent enough to activate it: I mean, it’s a small waste of bandwidth compared to loading a handful of social buttons to Twitbook+. However Ghostery logs in plain HTTP every visited URL (be it through HTTP or HTTPS). This is rather unwelcome when you’re accessing sites that are proposing HTTPS in an effort to protect your privacy.

HTTPS is a minimum when you’re trying to collect anonymous data. What’s more annoying here is that they do use HTTPS to send filter-updates, or load their main home page, but not to log your private data. So… meh.

Sample Ghostrank API call logged here for the curious.

   Request Headers:
      User-Agent[Mozilla/5.0 (X11; Linux x86_64; rv:16.0) Gecko/20100101 Firefox/16.0]
      Accept-Encoding[gzip, deflate]
   Response Headers:

Rant over. :)