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Google Analytics is one of the most popular analytics services for online publishers, especially smaller publishers. And for good reason: it has most of what the average publisher needs, and it's free.

But Google Analytics is offered, of course, by Google, and Google is no stranger to privacy complaints. That means that Google often has to look for ways to prove to the world that it cares about privacy. One way it's planning to 'protect' user privacy: allowing internet users to opt out of being tracked by Google Analytics.

In a post on the Google Analytics blog, Google Analytics product manager Amy Chang explains that Google has been exploring the best method for making this happen, and details the solution:

We concluded that the best approach would be to develop a global browser based plug-in to allow users to opt out of being tracked by Google Analytics. Our engineers are now hard at work finalizing and testing this opt-out functionality.

According to Chang, the plugin will be available to the public in the "coming weeks".

A browser-based plugin makes sense from a technical perspective. Allowing users to opt out of Google Analytics tracking with a cookie, for instance, would not be so effective since cookies get deleted all the time. A user with an opt-out cookie who deletes his browser cookies on a regular basis would be forced to repeatedly opt out. Other analytics providers, such as Coremetrics and Omniture, offer this sort of cookie-based opt-opt mechanism.

Unfortunately for publishers using Google Analytics, Google's solution will mean that users who really want to opt out of Google Analytics tracking will be able to do so easily. And once they're opted out, they'll ostensibly remain opted out unless they have a change of heart and decide to uninstall the plugin. Needless to say, publishers using Google Analytics will probably not be thrilled at the prospect that certain data won't be collected from a potentially larger number of users. After all, when it comes to web analytics, more is better for most publishers.

The good news is that the number of users who will know about the plugin and actually install it is probably minimal. But this does highlight the fact that relying on Google can come with some drawbacks because of the scrutiny Google's privacy practices receive.

Photo credit: alancleaver_2000 via Flickr.

Patricio Robles

Published 19 March, 2010 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

2380 more posts from this author

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Stewart Turton

Not enjoyable reading for marketers using Google Analytics!

over 6 years ago

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Cath

I think a lot of people are worrying before they have all the facts, I can't imagine the plugin stopping analytics from recording visitor numbers, more likely it'll block recording things like IPs, browser settings, previously visited websites, OS information and the like. Interestingly Yahoo! already offer a way for people to opt out of their analytics AND advertising network and enforce users of the service to put the option in the T&Cs of their websites - although it's not as simple as Google's proposals.

over 6 years ago

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Rob

This is nothing new.  I already opt out of Google Analytics in Firefox by choosing not to allow the Google Analytics code to run using the NoScript extension.  Ad blockers and similar privacy technology already block the most common forms of tracking.

Marketers don't have much to worry about unless they're marketing to very tech-savvy audiences.  Anyone who cares enough to block Analytics is probably already doing so.

over 6 years ago

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Peter

Those paranoid about Google gaining their data can already stop analytics from gaining their data by disabling JavaScript to their browsers. In reality no webmasters are concerned about losing data from the small percentage of visitors that don’t use javascript, and the take-up of this privacy system will be equally as low.

over 6 years ago

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Mark Bolitho, New Business Director - Ecommerce at more2

A very interesting development, but shouldn't be too much of a biggy - a little less data shouldn't hurt anybody.

over 6 years ago

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Nichola Tolson

The number of people who will actually install this plugin will likely be so bafflingly small that it won't even cause a blip to most site's numbers. Of course, the more techie your audience, the more likely they will install it, I'd think; so, sites like this might see slightly more of a hit, but nothing to really affect the trend lines, which is what people should be looking at anyway.

over 6 years ago

Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles, Tech Reporter at Econsultancy

Pterer, Mark, Nichola,

Agree in general, but I think this plugin highlights a broader problem: the pressure that is brought to bear on Google over privacy concerns is forcing it to do something its competitors in the space haven't done and likely will never do. For publishers evaluating web analytics solutions, that might be worth considering. Who knows what's next...

over 6 years ago

John Braithwaite

John Braithwaite, Managing Director at Ergo Digital

I only think it's a major problem for smaller sites. We all know that GA is not 100% bulletproof (far from it) in terms of the data supplied - it's best used as a really good 95%+ guide of what's going on. If that reduces to 90%, or even 80% then it's still fine as it shouldn't be the judge of what's going on.

over 6 years ago

Vincent Amari

Vincent Amari, Online Consultancy at Business Foresights Ltd

I wish those opposing data collected by Google Analytics start giving a fairer more balanced overview of facts for this issue, rather than just targeting GA. GA itself is already quite limited in regards to user data that any website owner could use to identify specific interactions. Why aren't those critics of GA making people aware that far more information about them is available to all ISP's and administrators of the servers through log files?

over 6 years ago

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Tim

There are still plenty of tools out there that can do the same job as google analytics and some. Especially if your looking to identify the companies going on your website.

I happen to use a tool called Web Forensics that pulls alot more data than Google Analytics and it is accurate. Compared to google analytics, I can see my actual figures plus company details. This is predominantly a B2B marketing tool but would recommmend it as I have won some business I probably wouldn't have got without it.

over 6 years ago

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Healthcare OutSourcing

Tim- Thank you for posting about Web Forensics. Wonder how does Web Forensics collects companies' details who have visited a particular website?

Any inputs?

We'd prefer anyone user sharing his/her experience with Web Forensics.

almost 6 years ago

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Email Address Help

Have to agree witg Cath and Rob, majority of internet users will not even know about plugin or give it a second thought.

over 5 years ago

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