Tweak Your Biz » Technology » The End Of Google Analytics?

The End Of Google Analytics?



From May 25th 2011, a EU wide privacy directive will come into effect. If implemented in Ireland this law would then make the use of third party cookies on a website without the prior consent of the user, illegal. A cookie is a piece of software that websites use to track user behaviour. A third party cookie is a cookie that is placed on your machine by a domain other than the one you are visiting. Google Analytics is a good example of the use of third party cookies.

The EU directive, which is available here, requires that website users be informed what information is being stored by the cookie and be asked to give their consent before the cookie is set.

The problem is that many Internet users do not know or understand what cookies are and given the option of whether to allow cookies, fearing the unknown, many people will opt to not allow the cookie. Google has always stated that the use of Google ‘Analytics requires that all websites that use it must update their privacy policy to include a notice that fully discloses the use of Analytics.’ However many websites that use Google Analytics don’t even have a privacy policy and the Google Analytics Opt-out Add-on for browsers is not widely known. This new directive could mean that this tool becomes a lot more popular.

There is also the issue of how best to ask for cookie consent. How will designers make the request obvious and meet the requirements of the law without turning users off. Will a cookie consent box become the norm on all websites operating out of the EU? If the website is hosted on a server outside of the EU would this law still apply to that site? These are all questions that remain unanswered.

Although this directive has been public knowledge for quite some time and has been reported on in various technology news sites, there does not seem to be any sense of urgency or worry over how this could affect the Internet industry in the EU.

Some reports claim that the terminology of the directive is so vague that it could be an non-issue. Specifically the text “Where it is technically possible and effective, in accordance with the relevant provisions of Directive 95/46/EC, the user’s consent to processing may be expressed by using the appropriate settings of a browser or other application” could be used to argue that prior consent is not needed if the users browser is set to allow cookies. However if the browser accepts cookies by default can this really be seen as giving consent given that many people don’t know how to change the cookie settings in their browser.

It is up to each European country how they will apply the directive into law and what recommendations they will make to website owners that currently use third party cookies on their website. As yet there has been no announcement from Ireland’s new government on how they will handle this.

My guess is that even if it is applied to Irish law, big Internet players like Google will find a way around the law, by changing the third party cookies used for Analytics and AdSense into first party cookies. Don’t ask me how they will do this. I’m sure Google will find a way. Thoughts?



Sponsored Content

The Author:

Social Media and Content Specialist at Sage Ireland. http://www.sage.ie

Add Your Comment

  • http://www.tweakyourbiz.com Niall Devitt

    Hi Beatrice, interesting stuff! But I agree that in reality Google will find a way, there is much money at stake not to.

  • Anonymous

    Wider Implications >>nnIt’s not just going to be Google who will be affected. Every session controlled by a cookie will too. That includes Ryanair, Aer Lingus etc. All you have to do is browse through the cookie list on your own PC.nnSomebody recently discovered that each time they went back to check the price of an online flight, the price kept going up. Then they deleted and cleared their cache and price dropped. This is 2nd hand information and I can’t say I’ve tested it.nnReal Answer >>nSession Tracking without Cookies isn’t new and we had built our own tracking system in 2004 that didn’t require cookies. This makes a lot of sense as you only need a cookie for when the user’s session breaks and tbh – Analytics has many faults in calculating Bounce Rates, actual “Unique” visits anyway!nn

  • Anonymous

    Wider Implications >>nnIt’s not just going to be Google who will be affected. Every session controlled by a cookie will too. That includes Ryanair, Aer Lingus etc. All you have to do is browse through the cookie list on your own PC.nnSomebody recently discovered that each time they went back to check the price of an online flight, the price kept going up. Then they deleted and cleared their cache and price dropped. This is 2nd hand information and I can’t say I’ve tested it.nnReal Answer >>nSession Tracking without Cookies isn’t new and we had built our own tracking system in 2004 that didn’t require cookies. This makes a lot of sense as you only need a cookie for when the user’s session breaks and tbh – Analytics has many faults in calculating Bounce Rates, actual “Unique” visits anyway!nn

  • Anonymous

    Wider Implications >>nnIt’s not just going to be Google who will be affected. Every session controlled by a cookie will too. That includes Ryanair, Aer Lingus etc. All you have to do is browse through the cookie list on your own PC.nnSomebody recently discovered that each time they went back to check the price of an online flight, the price kept going up. Then they deleted and cleared their cache and price dropped. This is 2nd hand information and I can’t say I’ve tested it.nnReal Answer >>nSession Tracking without Cookies isn’t new and we had built our own tracking system in 2004 that didn’t require cookies. This makes a lot of sense as you only need a cookie for when the user’s session breaks and tbh – Analytics has many faults in calculating Bounce Rates, actual “Unique” visits anyway!nn

  • http://twitter.com/beatricewhelan Beatrice Whelan

    Hi David,nnI think the wording of the directive means that first party cookies will not be affected so sites like Ryanair and Aer Lingus should be fine if the cookie is set by them and not a third party. Also as the directive is conerned with privacy then a tracking system that did not use cookies might also be affected as it is the tracking of the person that the EU seems to have aproblem with. The wording is so vague that I’m sure there are ways around it and we don’t even know yet how different countries in the EU will apply the directive into law.nWould be interested to hear more details on the faults of Analytics, I think many people would be interested to know more about this as the information given by Analytics is so valuable to people.

  • http://yetdigital.blogspot.com/ Krish – Yet Digital

    This may be an issue with European Region but not with other Regions. However i find GA an extremely useful analytics service which is offered free for all

  • http://webmarketingireland.com Salvatore McDonagh

    This new directive, (and other changes to EU privacy laws further down the line that amend this and expand it to cover non-cookie user session tracking) will probably require a test case to clarify it’s scope.n nPlacing a simple form visible above the fold that allows visitors to “Turn off cookies” will ensure compliance. I’ll be recommending that my clients also add a “What’s this about?” link that pops up an explanation of the advantages of keeping the cookie enabled – tracking user behavior allows businesses to tailor the website to the visitors needs, rather than what they perceive as being the visitors needs. Improving the businesses return on investment, via feedback from website analytics to streamline the sales process, will enable the business to invest more in the quality of its products and services and/or to offer more competitive prices. Either way the customer wins by having cookies turned on. nnThis is an opportunity for businesses to educate their customers, by being transparent about their use of analytics. Some will just be scared off using analytics and remove them (most businesses seem to ignore the analytics data anyway). But those who make the effort to inform their prospective customers while providing an easy “opt out” will win in the end – by having analytics data, and educated consumers. Even though the analytics data will not be complete because fo the missing data from those with cookies disabled, it will still be useable – after all it never is complete anyway.

  • http://www.wearethesun.com ColinFlaherty public relations

    i’m not a techie, so can someone explain why google says they only set first party cookies?

  • http://twitter.com/beatricewhelan Beatrice Whelan

    Hi Colin,nnWhere does Google say they only set first party cookies? This may be true for some of their products but as far as I am aware, using Google Analytics on your site sets a third party cookie as it is set by Google and not the domain the site is on.

  • http://www.wearethesun.com ColinFlaherty public relations

    Hi Beatrice,nnI just finished the Google Analytics Conversion University (I even passed the IQ exam…yea!) and it says so several times at the Conversion University courses … http://services.google.com/analytics/breeze/en/ga_cookies/index.htmlnnand i also found it on page 23 of Brian Clifton’s Advanced Web Metrics with Google Analytics where he says in a pull quote box: “Google Analytics uses first party anonymous cookies only.”nnEager to hear why some would consider this a third party cookie.nncheers.nnp.s. nice blog

  • http://primaryposition.blogspot.com/ David Quaid

    Thanks Beatrice – the wording is confusing and you’ve put it very eloquently!nnConsidering it both our lines of thought further : If Ryanair leave a cookie on your PC to see what you’ve done earlier – that’s tracking by any sense. Also, if a shopping cart leaves a cookie to chart your progress through a shopping cart (say, to help recover if your browser crashes) – then thats the same level of tracking/stalking really!!nnThe faults and limitations of Google Analytics cause many issues at meeting tables around the country. I’d be happy to share some and the understanding we use behind them somewhere if you wanted and to hear others’ stories!

  • http://twitter.com/hal9000_ie Jennie Molphy

    If you look in your cookies list you will see the analytics cookies set by Bloggertone for example, so the Google Analytics ones are first party cookies. You can see more at http://code.google.com/apis/analytics/docs/concepts/gaConceptsCookies.htmlnnAnd I’ve heard that about Ryanair too, though it could be urban myth. nnBut it’s a great example of how people don’t understand how cookies are used and what the law is in relation to them. Are Ryanair doing that? Is it within the law to do that? nnThe technology is changing business practices faster than the law can keep up. nnAn interesting resource about online privacy issues is and IAB site: http://www.youronlinechoices.com/uk/n

  • http://www.webmentor.ie AP Clarke

    The non-techie reasoning behind why they are first party and not third party cookies is that the javascript that you embed on your site from Google Analytics is executed on your site and the cookie is returned to your site and not to Google Analytics. In other words, your site is setting the cookie and doing the tracking, not Google Analytics – which makes it a first party cookie.

  • http://twitter.com/beatricewhelan Beatrice Whelan

    Hi Jannie and AP, thanks for the info. I see what you mean about the Google analytics cookie technically being a first party cookie but I am still wondering if the reading of the EU directive will consider this as being outside the terms of what is allowed, considering the data is sent to a third party i.e. Google. It is certainly true that the law is not keeping up with the technology. I know that German law does consider the use of Google Analytics without the consent of the website user, as a violation of privacy – see http://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=3185bd24-1698-4fd2-8399-0a49fcdcade1 nIf the EU directive was applied like this in other countries in Europe then it being a first party cookie would not make a difference.

  • AP Clarke

    Hi Beatrice, I read the directive concerning cookies and it’s worth quoting part of it – nn”Third parties may wish to store information on the equipment of a user, or gain access to information already stored, for a number of purposes, ranging from the legitimate (such as certain types of cookies) to those involving unwarranted intrusion into the private sphere (such as spyware or viruses). It is therefore of paramount importance that users be provided with clear and comprehensive information when engaging in any activity which could result in such storage or gaining of access. The methods of providing information and offering the right to refuse should be as user-friendly as possible.”nnIf I’m reading this right then the Google Analytics issue is really about the line that reads “or gain access to information already stored”. Interestingly enough, this question has been asked of Google – if a website uses first party cookies, then how does GA get the information from the website? (No answers so far). So I think you’re right Beatrice, there may well be a case to answer.

  • Jon Whitehead

    Hi Beatrice

    there was a much more detailed discussion over at http://www.advanced-web-metrics.com/blog/2011/05/20/google-analytics-and-the-new-eu-privacy-law/ on this.

    cheers

    Jon

  • http://www.ahaingroup.com/ Sian Phillips

    Welcome to Tweak Your Biz Adam. You’ve given some great points to deal with a very hard time in business life. Looking forward to your next post

  • http://www.leadsandappointments.com/ Anika Davis

    Good idea. Business will remain stable if the word SAVE is around in the mind. It is good to know that business wealth are trigger for more by means of conservation to attain its firmness. Finding another strategy is a good of help for improving the wealth but after those wealth it is good to consider the side of the employee particular on financial that drives them for better performance.