The implications of tracking opt outs

Posted by Nicole Rawski on March 24th, 2010 at 4:08 pm

Google Analytics, the most used web analytics tool, recently announced that they will be implementing a browser-based plugin that allows users to opt-out of being tracked.

What does this mean for someone who uses Google Analytics to optimize their online performance? In my opinion, it doesn’t mean much. There will always be users who don’t want their online behavior tracked.

Users already have the ability to deny or delete tracking cookies, both of which result in inaccurate representations of online behavior. However, the benefits of web analytics do not lie in minutia—value comes from analyzing trends.

As a web analyst, it’s important to understand that analytics data is not always going to be a perfect reflection of online behavior. The goal is to take available raw data and extract actionable insights to improve performance.

Google Chrome already allows users the chance to browse the web “incognito” that affords users the ability to browse the web without being tracked. As for Google’s plugin, it will be interesting to see if users proactively manage their privacy settings, or if it will be ignored like Chrome’s incognito mode.

4 Responses to “The implications of tracking opt outs”

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  2. DowntownRob says:

    Just to be clear, incognito or private browsing windows can still be tracked by stats programs... it just removes your browsing history and deletes all cookies after you close the window, leaving no trace of the sites you visited on the computer.

    See http://support.mozilla.com/en-US/kb/Private+Browsing?style_mode=inproduct&as=u and http://www.google.com/support/chrome/bin/answer.py?answer=95464&hl=en

    Stats are more likely affected by those that having javascript turned off, or cookies turned off, or both, but in most cases is such a small number it won't affect the larger trends you are trying to analyze, and I agree that the larger picture is the focus, gaining as large a sample size as you can to make decisions from for things like cart abandonment/conversion, sales funnels, and using other methods like A/B testing or heat maps that deliver actionable results combined with trends in web analytics is in my opinion the best approach.

  3. Sushant says:

    I agree with your thoughts.

    However, I think that it would be helpful if Google Analytics can generate a report that shows how many people opted out.

    As you mention in your blog, we like to analyze the trends i.e. how many of our visitors are "privacy advocates"

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