Hitwise is shutting down, after more than 20 years in operation. The company provided only a vague statement on its website, citing “events outside of our control.” Hitwise also called it an “unexpected turn of events.”
I’ve reached out to company representatives to see if they’ll offer any comment beyond the statement posted on the website. There’s some unconfirmed speculation that Hitwise, which collects consumer data from numerous sources, might be winding down for reasons that also caused Jumpshot to recently discontinue operations.
Like Jumpshot — or not? Jumpshot, a subsidiary of security software company Avast, was accused of “secretly harvesting” users’ browsing behavior, packaging it and reselling without their full knowledge. So far, there’s no evidence that a similar problem exists for Hitwise. But in the absence of other information, that’s what some people are suggesting — and not an unreasonable line of speculation.
Hitwise was an early website analytics provider, competing with comScore and Nielsen. It was founded in 1996 and sold to Experian 2007 for more than $240 million. Eight years later, Connexity bought Hitwise from Experian for considerably less, in a deal valued at roughly $52 million.
Privacy issues may be to blame. In the Experian press release, announcing the acquisition, the company said, “To safeguard consumer privacy, the data [collected by Hitwise] excludes personally identifiable information and is aggregated into socio-demographic marketing segments.” Interestingly, in the Connexity press release announcing the acquisition said, “Hitwise’s shift from website analytics to audience-based analytics aligns perfectly with our audience activation approach at Connexity.”
All this does suggest some sort of privacy calculus at the core of the decision to close down Hitwise. Jumpshot was likely shuttered at least in part to prevent further PR fallout from reaching corporate parent Avast, as some commentators started calling for the security software to be uninstalled.
We first became aware of Hitwise’s closure via a post by Bill Hartzer. If we hear back from the company we’ll update this story.
Why we care. While there may have been a financial (or other) aspect to Connexity’s decision to close down Hitwise, data privacy likely factors into it. If so, this could be bad news for other vendors that capture or aggregate and resell consumer data, perhaps without their full knowledge and consent. Stay tuned.