Google Analytics - Privacy Issues

Privacy Issues

This section requires expansion.

Due to its ubiquity, Google Analytics raises some privacy concerns. Whenever someone visits a website that uses Google Analytics, if Javascript is enabled in the browser then Google tracks that visit via the user's IP address in order to determine the user's approximate geographic location. (To meet German legal requirements, Google Analytics can anonymize the IP address.)

The opt-in Google Account privacy policy is quite different from the Google privacy policies as applied to Google AdWords, or the terms of service for users of Google Analytics—which forbid the storing of PII (Personally-Identifiable Information).

If a website visitor uses a Google Account as ID when entering a comment or uploading to a Google property such as Blogger or YouTube, then Google receives sufficient information to identify the user and thus associate the details of the website visit with that user. Google has announced an updated privacy policy which will allow Google to specifically identify and track users of any website that uses a Google Account, if that user is also a user of any other Google product (Gmail, Picasa, YouTube, BlogSpot,etc.) to which the same privacy policy applies. Much of this Google Account profile information is optional and private (viewable only by Google) by default, and the user may update or remove it. But, as described above, it is against Google's privacy policies and the Google Analytics Terms of Service to store personally-identifiable information without a user's consent.

Google has also released a browser plugin that turns off data about a page visit being sent to Google. Since this plug-in is produced and distributed by Google itself, it has met much discussion and criticism. Furthermore, the realisation of Google scripts tracking user behaviours has spawned the production of multiple, often open-source, browser plug-ins to reject tracking cookies. These plug-ins offer the user a choice, whether to allow Google Analytics (for example) to track his/her activities. However, partially because of new European privacy laws, most modern browsers allow users to reject tracking cookies, though Flash cookies can be a separate problem again.

It has been anecdotally reported that behind proxy servers and multiple firewalls that errors can occur changing time stamps and registering invalid searches.

Webmasters who seek to mitigate Google Analytics specific privacy issues can employ a number of alternatives having their backends hosted on their own machines. Until its discontinuation, an example of such a product was Urchin WebAnalytics Software from Google itself.

Read more about this topic:  Google Analytics

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