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Goodbye Google Analytics

I was outlining some ideas for an article I want to write concerning online privacy and connections to the recent Facebook fiasco. Part of the outline had me talking about the “middleman” layer that many big services like Facebook and Google created through their free offerings like ads, webfonts, comments, and social sharing options. I started mentioning this in a post from last year. I won’t go into that detail here (yet), but something that really struck home for me was the use of Google Analytics.

For those not in the know, Google Analytics is a way to track users on a website for reporting and insights. We used to do this manually by analyzing the logs from the webserver. Then Google made it trivially easy to get great looking reports of the data automatically by simply including a small piece of JavaScript in our pages. It can even show this data in real time. Which is, as my friend Alex Prokoudine points out: “just jerking off” (*at least for small projects like this blog).

Dashboard view Dashboard view users

What this really boils down to is (and I’ll cover this in more depth in the article I alluded to): I’ve given Google direct access to all of my users and their browsing habits on my site.

Faust und Mephisto, Stich von Tony Johannot
Ok Faust, simply add this tiny snippet of JavaScript and you’ll get all of these wonderful analytics! Easy-peasy!

It’s insidious because it’s dead-simple to set up, and it gives you a nice little jolt of satisfaction watching your traffic flowing in (trickling, in my case). Mesmerizing. Cunning. Dirty.

This is not exactly news to many, but I figured it might be for a few people. If it helps raise awareness in even one person of what’s really going on then I’d say this post has done its job. I’d rather not give Google a hand tracking users across the entire web.

I’m done with Google Analytics.

So long, and thanks for all the fish.

Matomo website

There is a Free Software option for user analytics that we use over on PIXLS.US called Matomo (previously, Piwik) that I will continue to use here. This means that I control all of the data and don’t allow any middleman to see what you’re up to (well, me and one of the pixls sysadmins, andabata, who runs the service for us). I will also start manually analyzing my server logs offline when I need more accurate statistics to look at.

Stay tuned for something a little more in-depth where I ramble on more about tracking and the sneaky middle layer of snooping that these services have built up in the name of convenience and apathy.


Filed under: Google, privacy

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