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26 May 2010, 11:56

A bit of privacy for Google Analytics

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Google Analytics Logo Announced two months ago, Google's browser add-on for opting out of Google Analytics has now been released. It can be downloaded from Google's Privacy Centre. The extension prevents browsers from running the ga.js code which is embedded into web pages (the code itself can be found at Group Product Manager for Google Analytics, Amy Chang promised that consequently Google won't receive any data when a page is accessed.

However, the add-on is only available for Internet Explorer 7 and 8, Firefox 3.x, and Chrome 4.x or later. Google has traditionally ignored Opera users, and Safari users are also left out in the cold. In Firefox and Chrome an easily installed extension is used, while in Internet Explorer, a separate application is required. According to Chang, a separate version of the opt out extension had to be created for each of the three browsers. The operation of the plug-in couldn't be simpler: Once it is installed the, browser blocks the Analytics script from running – there are no settings or controls.

In an attempt to allay users' suspicions concerning Analytics, Google has introduced a further new feature: Web masters can, from now, on enable "IP Masking" during implementation. With this feature, Google promises to delete the last 8 bits of the requesting IP address before processing it any further. While this still allows Analytics to roughly localise the address and fulfil its purpose, it prevents user identification. A similar option exists in Analytics competitor eTracker, although, unfortunately, it isn't the program's default behaviour.

Google Analytics is a powerful tool that web masters can implement on their web pages to analyse page accesses. Analytics identifies entry and exit points, compiles statistics and charts requests on a map. However, web masters who use the tool pass on a large amount of information to Google. German data protectionists, for example, are debating whether it is fundamentally legal in Germany to use Analytics without requesting a user's consent. Irrespective of this, the tool is in widespread use in Germany.


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