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« What is Web Analytics Program Success? | Main | The FTC Privacy Report - A Web Analytics Perspective »

November 23, 2010

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Brian Clifton

Phil - thanks for putting this down so clearly. However, I wanted to add my comments to put this into context.

Your statement on GA:

Cookies – Google uses cookies to track your visits. If you are using GA, they will track your usage. This is also used to “to improve the quality of our service.”

Its a tad misleading to say "they will track YOUR usage" - my emphasis. All collected GA data is anonymous and aggregate so surely this is a moot point. My analogy it that its like counting cars that drive past a school each day in order to get an understanding of road safety in the area. That is not the same as writing down license plates and following up with a personalised letter to your home address... though it what some vendors are attempting to do.

I also find it odd when commentators highlight the purpose of collecting data (either GA or YWA) as if this is something new and sensitive and users need to worry about it. For example:

"Provide, maintain, protect, and improve our services (including advertising services) and develop new services"

Putting the web to one side, what on earth is the purpose of collecting data at all if it is not to improve your products/services?

Vendors do of course need to be scrutinised, but I feel your focus is misplaced here. Vendors (or websites) that track individuals surreptitiously (e.g. with the use of Flash Shared Objects) - and attempt to identify them personally - is what is threatening web privacy. And there are a large number of website that attempt to do this...

Brian Clifton
Former Head of Web Analytics, Google EMEA
Author, Advanced Web Metrics with Google Analytics

Web Analytics Management

Brian –
Thanks for the thoughtful response and I understand where you’re coming from. Let me clarify why I highlighted elements of the policies:

1.The potential use of GA and YWA in the US Federal government is a new opportunity and there are many folks I’ve spoken to who are not familiar with how these solutions track, or what they track. I’m simply explaining how this all works so people can make educated decisions about their choices.

2.There is a clear distinction in the policy regarding how GA tracks your site visitors and how they track your activity as an account user. This is not a question of right or wrong, or questioning how the data is used. I’m simply explaining the differences so potential consumers of GA are not surprised.

3.Privacy, differentiation in data collection and definition of Personal Identifiable Information (PII) are the focal points of OMB M-10-22. I would be re-miss in my analysis of the TOS and privacy policy if I did not point out the data being collected and how it is used. Again, this is not an issue of right or wrong. It’s not a judgement either. I just want to provide information that will help folks make informed decisions as it relates to how both GA and YWA deal with privacy, opt out and data retention. As I concluded, there other factors that should weigh into the decision of what vendor to use.

Best-
Phil

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