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.