IAPP-GDPR Web Banners-300x250-FINAL

By Jedidiah Bracy, CIPP/US, CIPP/E

What do you get when you put a group of talented, self-motivated developers, tech-savvy judges and folks who built one of the Internet’s most-successful online privacy tools into the same room? This coming Saturday, you’ll get Hack the Trackers.

Created by Ghostery, a privacy-enhancing browser service owned by Evidon, the hackathon aims to develop a new generation of online privacy tools by inviting developers to work together on open-sourced technology and then be judged by selected experts. “If data is the new oil,” the event home page states, “unwanted tracking is the oil spill—and it needs to be contained.”

Ghostery is no stranger to “containing” such online oil spills. The service, which can be used in a browser or as a mobile app, helps detect online cookies, beacons and other tracking technology to help users understand and decide who they are being tracked by. In just four years, the online service went from having 250,000 users to more than 20 million, according to Evidon Data Analysis Director Andy Kahl. 

“What’s rewarding is that quite a lot of our users buy into a user-based community,” he said. Since so many of Ghostery’s users are developers, it made sense for the company to tap into their user base to create new tools. “We realized maybe we could have these folks come together, build off of Ghostery, or build something on their own.”

Hack the Trackers is set to run all day—from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.—in New York City on November 9 at WeWork Lounge. It’s sort of a public beta of the hackathon events the company would like to expand upon, Kahl said, and there are plans to roll out similar events in the coming year—perhaps in Chicago and Dallas. Attendees can form groups and then have approximately seven hours to create their product.

Three judges will then review the products and announce three finalists. Those chosen then are given a “few” weeks to refine their idea before being posted online for user voting. The winning team will have their product featured alongside the Ghostery team at South by Southwest next March. And SXSW is no small event.

Judges include Advertising Age Data Reporter Kate Kaye, independent researcher Ashkan Soltani and Tapad VP of Products & Analytics Viviane Chang.

Planning originally started last March, long before Edward Snowden’s NSA surveillance disclosures. And now more and more users are clamoring for online protection and more and more businesses are building out online privacy services.

Last month, Financial Times reported on the burgeoning privacy-enhancing technology industry and its rising profits. Startups, venture capital and established businesses—from Private Internet Access to Mozilla—are all investing in online privacy-enhancing tools. Privacy startup Personal, a digital vault service, has raised $4 million in venture capital. WhiteHat Security recently released a new open-sourced browser for iOS that blocks ads by default. And just last week, Silent Circle and Lavabit announced the formation of the Dark Mail Alliance, to help build a fully encrypted e-mail service. The move comes after both companies shut down their e-mail services rather than share their user’s data with the U.S. government (Snowden had reportedly used Lavabit’s service.) Anonymous VPN service CryptoSeal also recently shut down its service rather than risk government intervention.

So the time for expediting growth in privacy-enhancing tools seems ripe. Kahl is optimistic about Hack the Trackers. “Hopefully this will gain some notoriety,” Kahl said, adding that the Summer of Snowden has definitely increased the number of participants. “It’s certainly a topic in the front of many of our users’ minds. Privacy is a subjective thing and it all starts with transparency. You can’t make decisions about privacy if you don’t know what is being done.” 

Read more by Jedidiah Bracy:
U.S. Intel Officials Defend Programs; EU Fallout Continues
FTC’s Brill to Technologists: This Is Your Call to Arms
Acxiom, MasterCard CPOs Talk Transparency, De-identification, FTC Consent Orders
Cato Conference: We Have Problems, Is NSA Biggest One?


If you want to comment on this post, you need to login.


Board of Directors

See the esteemed group of leaders shaping the future of the IAPP.

Contact Us

Need someone to talk to? We’re here for you.

IAPP Staff

Looking for someone specific? Visit the staff directory.

Learn more about the IAPP»

Daily Dashboard

The day’s top stories from around the world

Privacy Perspectives

Where the real conversations in privacy happen

The Privacy Advisor

Original reporting and feature articles on the latest privacy developments

Privacy Tracker

Alerts and legal analysis of legislative trends

Privacy Tech

Exploring the technology of privacy

Canada Dashboard Digest

A roundup of the top Canadian privacy news

Europe Data Protection Digest

A roundup of the top European data protection news

Asia-Pacific Dashboard Digest

A roundup of the top privacy news from the Asia-Pacific region

IAPP Westin Research Center

Original works. Groundbreaking research. Emerging scholars.

Advertise in IAPP Publications

Find out how to get your message in front the people you want to reach. Download a media kit now.

Get more News »

Find a KnowledgeNet Chapter Near You

Network and talk privacy at IAPP KnowledgeNet meetings, taking place worldwide.

Women Leading Privacy

Events, volunteer opportunities and more designed to help you give and get career support and expand your network.

IAPP Job Board

Looking for a new challenge, or need to hire your next privacy pro? The IAPP Job Board is the answer.

Join the Privacy List

Have ideas? Need advice? Subscribe to the Privacy List. It’s crowdsourcing, with an exceptional crowd.

Find more ways to Connect »

Find a Privacy Training Class

Two-day privacy training classes are held around the world. See the complete schedule now.

Online Privacy Training

Build your knowledge. The privacy know-how you need is just a click away.

The Training Post—Can’t-Miss Training Updates

Subscribe now to get the latest alerts on training opportunities around the world.

New Web Conferences Added!

See our list of upcoming web conferences. Just log on, listen in and learn!

Train Your Staff

Get your team up to speed on privacy by bringing IAPP training to your organization.

Learn more »

CIPP Certification

The global standard for the go-to person for privacy laws, regulations and frameworks

CIPM Certification

The first and only privacy certification for professionals who manage day-to-day operations

CIPT Certification

The industry benchmark for IT professionals worldwide to validate their knowledge of privacy requirements

Certify Your Staff

Find out how you can bring the world’s only globally recognized privacy certification to a group in your organization.

Learn more about IAPP certification »

Get Close-up

Looking for tools and info on a hot topic? Our close-up pages organize it for you in one easy-to-find place.

Where's Your DPA?

Our interactive DPA locator helps you find data protection authorities and summary of law by country.

IAPP Westin Research Center

See the latest original research from the IAPP Westin fellows.

Looking for Certification Study Resources?

Find out what you need to prepare for your exams

More Resources »

GDPR Comprehensive: Registration Open

New! Intensive two-day GDPR training led by the sharpest minds in the field. It's a can't-miss event.

The Congress Is Cancelled

The IAPP Europe Data Protection Congress 2015 is cancelled. Click through to learn more.

Sponsor an Event

Increase visibility for your organization—check out sponsorship opportunities today.

Exhibit at an Event

Put your brand in front of the largest gatherings of privacy pros in the world. Learn more.

More Conferences »

Become a Member

Start taking advantage of the many IAPP member benefits today

Corporate Members

See our list of high-profile corporate members—and find out why you should become one, too

Renew Your Membership

Don’t miss out for a minute—continue accessing your benefits

Join the IAPP»