Google Analytics Throws A Bone To Privacy Zealots

In the wake of the various privacy problems we have seen with Google and Facebook, both companies have been trying to find a way to get some good privacy publicity. One of the many things that people complain about is how much information sites track about you when you visit. Google has decided that it needs to help this process by allowing users to hide from Google Analytics tracking.

I use Google Analytics for my sites as many other people do. It is one of the few free options that also gives you good reporting capabilities, custom events and segmentation. What Google has done is provide a browser add-on for the user so that their visit is not tracked. This is all done in the name of user privacy. They have also included more settings for the site owner to anonymize the IP address of the user, but still provide geographic reporting. Google is also downplaying the effects this browser add-on will have in a nice quote from a ReadWriteWeb post:

According to Google spokesman Brian Richardson only 1 in 15 visitors to Google’s Ads Preferences Manager actually decides to opt out of Google’s personalized advertising program.

As a site owner, obviously I have a general problem with this idea, regardless of how much adoption Google thinks it might have. Analytics are the only way that site owners know what is occurring on their pages. The benefit of solutions like Google Analytics is that they provide a simple implementation and good reporting without the site owner needing to know much technology. The JavaScript tracking that they provide is also much simpler than the previous generation of analytics tools. Those tools would analyze the logs from your web server to determine user behavior. However, web server logs do not contain the type of information that allow the site owner to take action.

The amount of work required to create a useful analytics tracking tool is large. Most site owners cannot afford those types of projects. This can really affect how site owners can improve their sites. If there were a significant number of people hiding from analytics tracking tools, many of your favorite features may not exist. Product recommendations on ecommerce sites rely heavily on analytics tracking. Ease of use improvements are typically driven by analytics tracking. All of those cool visualizations on how people use your site, like heat maps or knowing that peoples eyes move in the form of an F, all rely on analytics tracking. In the end, site owners will always find a way to track their users.

Why would Google make this choice? Was this just an offering to the privacy zealots? Will Google Analytics tracking adoption be harmed by this type of move? Will site owners be looking for other solutions? I know I am planning to review any free analytics solutions that are available. If you are an analytics tool provider, please leave your information in the comments. Maybe this move by Google was good for your business.

13 thoughts on “Google Analytics Throws A Bone To Privacy Zealots

  1. Damond

    I will be watching my analytics for the next month to determine if I see any changes. The only issue is that summer is coming and typically causes a slight decline in traffic.


  2. People have been opting out of GA for a long time, simply by using NoScript in their browser, or various ad blockers.

    If you are really that concerned that this new “opt out” option offered will skew your stats, then install an additional analytics service like Koego. It won’t log the traffic that Google is missing through the use of ad blockers and NoScript (it’s js too) but it will pick up the traffic that has opted out of GA.


  3. app103

    Well, I am assuming that most people use javascript nowadays. So much website functionality would be lost without it, that I really don’t worry about that as much. I did not know that ad blockers blocked analytics traffic, so I will need to look into that. I will be looking at other analytics services to determine what really fits my needs.


  4. I said much the same thing over at The Inquisitr when Google first announced that it was going to be doing this.

    “It is hard enough for site owners to be able to monetize their content but to remove or marginalize one of the core metrics before we have anything to replace it with could prove to be a disaster in the making for sites of all sizes”


  5. Steven

    I had not really looked at it when it was first announced, mainly because it was not ready. But I do not think it will be a drastic change. I may be underestimating things, but I do not think enough people will adopt it. However, that does not mean that I won’t change analytics services.


  6. Rob,

    I’m not sure about the adoption factor either but given the number of blogs that are dependent on those type of analytics even percentage points can be costly.

    That said I have GA in place but rely on it very little. My preference at this point is the service offered by Clicky, which is also one of the few affliate programs I use and advertise on my blogs.


  7. Rob,

    NoScript isn’t the same as turning off javascript in your browser. You can selectively allow or ban scripts based on the domain they are served from, which means I can ban anything from and never be tracked on any website using GA, while not affecting the functionality of the websites.

    And yes, there are ad blockers that block GA by default, as this screenshot of my Ad Muncher list shows:

    I use multiple analytics services, with one of them being Koego on blogs, mainly because they are fairly decent but too small to be noticed by the ad blockers yet, so they are currently flying under the radar…plus they actually will promote your blog on their site and autopost whatever your most popular post of the day is, to your twitter account, if you opt in for that.


  8. app103

    Sorry, I had made an assumption about NoScript. I had no idea that it had that much functionality. I will need to look at Keogo and Clicky (from Steve) to get a good feel for the options.

    I am starting to think we need a good option on the server side.


  9. This is the problem with the web and as a result in general life, noone thinks that privacy is important.

    If you went into a high street store to browse and the owner stopped you and asked you where you were from, how long you had been in the store, what you had been looking at etc. you would probably tell them where to go. Of course soon enough most of them will be monitoring all of this with facial recognition software and RFID chipped credit/ID cards.

    I have absolutely no problem if people don’t want to be tracked that is their right. Of course the joke is that Google (aka the National Security Agency of The Fasicst Dictatorship currently running the USA and UN) will still monitor and collect that data anyway, inlcuding logging who is choosing to be private and on which sites, they just wont let you have it!

    Its time to start supporting alternatives to google otherwise the web wont be free for much longer. Don’t forget they are an incorporated enterprise and as such if they decide to start charging you for analytics tomorrow they can and will do so.


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