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Google to add opt-out for analytics  (View post)

hebbet [PersonRank 10]

Thursday, March 18, 2010
14 years ago6,253 views

<<As an enterprise-class web analytics solution, Google Analytics not only provides site owners with information on their website traffic and marketing effectiveness, it also does so with high regard for protecting user data privacy. Over the past year, we have been exploring ways to offer users more choice on how their data is collected by Google Analytics. 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. We look forward to make it globally available to our users in the coming weeks.>>

TOMHTML [PersonRank 10]

14 years ago #

Since when does Google alert us about something they *will launch*?

George R [PersonRank 10]

14 years ago #

I commend Google if they provide a means to avoid being tracked. There are several problems with the method they seem to be favoring. They would track you unless you only access the web via a browser in which you have added their plug-in to opt out.

People may not realize they are visiting a site that may be tracking them. Even if the person browsing is savvy enough to realize it, once he is there, it is too late. How can he be expected to know before visiting the page? Google should assume the user is opting out unless he explicitly opts in. They have it backwards.

Why should a user be required to install and run special programs to avoid analytics? What if they do not know about the software? Will the source code be available for transparency? Is the plug-in an attack point for malware?

Does this plug-in need to be added to every browser and other program that accesses the web? What if some program does not accept plug-ins? What if there is no version for your computer, device, operating system, or application? What if there is limited space on your device? What if the plug-in stops running? What if you are using a public computer?

Another technique might be to use the "hosts" file to direct the analytics collecting domains to be translated to benign IP addresses. Individual programs will not need to be augmented. This will not prevent access to analytics if a url specifies the analytics IP instead of its domain. The "hosts" file should be properly protected from modification and periodically verified. This is also the type of filtering that OpenDNS might add. Even if the Google Public DNS offered such filtering, it might have the appearance of a conflict of interest.

Above 3 comments were made in the forum before this was blogged,

HarPaX [PersonRank 0]

14 years ago #

For Firefox the add-on Ghostery allows the user to ban a user-defined list of trackers. That's probably the easiest way to get rid of Google Analytics.

r721 [PersonRank 1]

14 years ago #

[put at-character here]George R
Two interesting posts on much more sophisticated tracking technologies:

Roger Browne [PersonRank 10]

14 years ago #

[put at-character here]r721: Thanks for those links. In particular, the first one is an excellent overview of tracking technologies, with links to further information.

GeorgeR wrote:
> Google should assume the user is opting out unless he
> explicitly opts in. They have it backwards.
> Why should a user be required to install and run special
> programs to avoid analytics?

This is the only reliable way for it to work. If you require Google to assume you are opting out, you are placing total faith in the behavior of a non-transparent corporation. Even if that might work for Google, it's not going to work for the majority of organizations who want to track you.

On the other hand, if you have a plugin for your browser then the call is never made to the tracking URL, and the tracking cookie is never stored. This provides a much greater degree of confidence that you are not being tracked.

Naturally the plugin and the browser need to be open source to reduce the risk that the plugin is not itself a tracking tool or some other kind of malware.

I hope Google's plugin is going to be applicable to all trackers, not just Google Analytics. If a user is concerned about tracking, it would be unworkable to need to take action separately for every tracking site.

Ultimately, it's a theoretical impossibility to do anything online without exposting SOME information, so there is inevitably going to be a tradeoff between privacy and utility.

Richard [PersonRank 0]

14 years ago #

Adsense too please.

Jayenkai [PersonRank 2]

14 years ago #

My few-readers-a-day would plummet!! They're all tech-savvy, and would pretty much all switch it off!

Ian Davies [PersonRank 2]

14 years ago #

Perhaps the plugin could have Google Analytics register you as a 'hit' for visitor purposes, but not collect any other data about you? Such as location, browser, IP address, number of visits, etc etc. It's a shame for webmasters to lose out like this.

MellowYellow [PersonRank 1]

14 years ago #

WTF.. why would a user care if google knows what site he visited?

Cormac [PersonRank 3]

14 years ago #

So they're developing software that would ruin another piece of their own software's functionality?

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