What is Going on?
The Austrian privacy regulator has alleged that Google Analytics is in breach of the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Such statements may have implications for the use of Google Analytics across Europe.
Based on this statement, the Dutch Data Protection Authority (DPA) has also indicated that Google Analytics may be banned. On an information page about cookies, the DPA has posted a warning that Google Analytics may no longer be permitted in the near future. This will have a major impact on many websites within the Netherlands and the EU. If Google Analytics is banned, the method of anonymizing IP addresses within it will also no longer be permitted. The biggest stumbling block for Dutch and Austrian privacy advocates is that when Google Analytics is used, data is sent to Google’s servers in the United States. And that represents a breach of the GDPR (AVG in Dutch).
New Era of Privacy
If we look a little beyond the potential ban, we can say that a new era has begun. With the introduction of the GDPR in 2018, privacy is becoming increasingly important. And rightly so. We have Europe to thank for the GDPR. Countries outside Europe are watching what is happening here. And the (predominantly American) Big Tech companies cannot ignore the GDPR. That means that this is a good thing for every European resident.
However, many companies and marketeers are warily watching what is happening in the field of privacy. The tools/insights they had at their disposal are disappearing because of the GDPR, the proliferation of cookie blockers, privacy browsers, privacy internet providers, and even Apple! In June 2021, Apple – with iOS 14.5 – set its sights on privacy for iPhone owners. From then on, app owners had to explicitly ask all users for permission to track them. And now there is the possible ban on Google Analytics. This means a new focus: privacy first.
This is a good thing. At some point in the past few years, the freely accessible Internet has been frittered away by large technology companies offering free services. And we know: nothing is free. All of us paid, with our privacy. Now, our privacy is being restored piece by piece.
Alternatives to Google Analytics
How should we proceed in relation to Google Analytics? What if it is indeed banned? I would certainly not wait for that moment, instead I would be making moves now. I will help you get started with that. Here, I have listed a number of alternatives to Google Analytics. Naturally, they are all privacy-friendly alternatives. However, there are only a few privacy (GDPR) friendly alternatives to Google Analytics available:
- Mixpanel Analytics up to 100,000 tracked users per month for free. For European users, data is stored in a Dutch data centre. Mixpanel is a company based in the United States.
- Matomo Free of charge when installed on the user’s own servers. Matomo’s servers for their SAAS solution are located in Germany. Privacy is high on Matomo’s list of priorities. Both the UN and the European Commission use it. Historical Google Analytics data can be transferred. Open source. For the older nerds among us: 2018 is when the name Matomo was adopted to replace the name of Piwik (est. 2007).
- Fathom Fathom is based in Canada, and uses German servers for its EU customers. Costs start at $14/month.
Review whether one of the above alternatives is a match for your situation by making a choice based on the conditions, possibilities, and required licensing form. You should also carry out your own research into possible alternatives that may be better suited to your situation.
The use of a new analytics tool offers the opportunity to gain new insights. This gives you a fresh look at the figures and the way they are presented and visualized. The above tools also offer new features and integrations. These include integrated heat maps and links to your existing CMS or CRM. The focus on privacy also provides other insights and opportunities. Your customers are also affected by this, so it is better for you to start researching and integrating it into your own corporate DNA. In doing so, you are already preparing for what is sure to come: privacy-first.
Don’t wait to long and act
- Don’t wait until Google Analytics is actually banned before you find/implement an alternative. New tools offer new insights and a new look at the statistics, meaning that you will better understand the users of your website.
- Because privacy is here to stay and should be made a part of your corporate DNA. This also gives your customers a reason to choose your company.
- By using one of the three alternatives to Google Analytics listed above, the cookie message on your website will become a thing of the past. Please do not forget to disable or remove it after switching.
- Are you getting started with a new analytics tool? Do not forget to delete the entire Google Analytics environment (after exporting the data if necessary).
- Afterwards, include a piece of text on your website about how your company takes privacy seriously and that your website is GDPR-compliant.
Here is another fair disclaimer: On the MPG websites (mpg.today, mpgconcepts.com, socialinc.nl, thesocialclub.amsterdam and mmmatter.com) we are still using the anonymized method of applying Google Analytics to a website, as was also recommended by the Dutch Data Protection Authority (DPA) until 14 January 2022. We, too, are in the process of identifying and implementing a GDPR-compliant analytics tool. Yes, we are all in this together. This means we are all heading to new places and gaining insights that help us provide our future or current customers with the best information and inspiration they could wish for.