Don’t Break the Law with Google Analytics

Recent court cases in Austria and France have resulted in rulings against Google’s Universal Analytics in its current form. They relate primarily to the use of cookies, a small piece of code installed onto your computer that allow for tracking.

Over the past five years there has been a justified clamp down on online tracking, with the introduction of pan-European legislation such as GDPR, which has also been introduced in the USA. Apple has even positioned itself as a privacy champion, with cookie tracking banned as standard on its devices. As a result, Google has announced they will be shutting down Universal Analytics in June 2023.

But what does a ruling in Austria and France have to do with the UK. To explain, data is not necessarily processed within the location where the activity occurs. For example, you may be a business in London, but your data is processed either in the EU or the USA. This relates to the physical servers where information is stored and used. And therefore, it is also your problem.

What does this mean for your business?

It means that you need to take steps away from Google Analytics in its current form. Google is currently launching Google Analytics 4. But it has had significant teething issues. The platform is very different from the previous Universal Analytics due to its shift away from cookie-based tracking.

For our clients, this means a replacement is in order. Many businesses do not have the time or need to adopt to the new Google Analytics 4 and there is no guarantee that further issues will arise with Google’s approach to tracking.

We have talked to several data science practitioners that have concerns related to the user friendliness of the new platform, which they feel is a rushed product that does not translate easily. Google has even failed to release instructions and guidance around key parts of the new software, which has made the transfer more difficult.

At Shooting Star we have used Google Analytics 4 but found it too difficult to justify its continued use as it will require a complete reorientation for clients, which makes consistent reporting after the transfer from UA to GA4 difficult.

What’s the solution?

Our solution has been to adopt Fathom Analytics which costs just $14 (approx £12) a month. The platform is similar in appearance and function to the current Google Analytics, but it doesn’t use cookie-based tracking and the founders are privacy advocates. Take a look at this example website here.

This means several things.

  • No cookie policy needed
  • Accurate tracking that bypasses VPNs and device restrictions
  • Completely legal
  • Can import GA data

The latter point is something that is currently in development, and what this means is that you will be able to import your previous Google Analytics Universal Analytics data into Fathom, so that you have consistency in future reporting.

The platform also has UTM tracking, meaning that marketers can continue to easily build structured campaign tracking and attribute pages and activity appropriately.

Why should I pay for a service that was free?

There is a common saying in the tech world, that if you’re not paying for the service, you’re the product because it is your data that is at risk. And that is partly why Google is as wealthy as it is, it has effectively monetised it’s users by offering the service for free. This is one of several reasons why we advise our clients, and anyone else reading this article, to seriously consider an alternative to Google Analytics and why our preference is Fathom Analytics.