13. January 2022

Is Google Analytics now taboo for us Europeans? No

This blog post was originally posted by Thomas Taucher (JENTIS Cofounder and Co-CEO) here on LinkedIn here on LinkedIn (in german).

Is Google Analytics now taboo for us Europeans? No.

Yes, it’s true, Google Analytics is no longer GDPR-compliant, as the Standard (Austrian newspaper), among others, reported this morning. Those of us who have been dealing with privacy and web analytics for the last months and years have not been surprised by this decision. What is new is that an association like Noyb is putting this fact in the media spotlight for the first time.

Much more exciting than the article itself, however, are the numerous accompanying comments. This written sympathy shows one thing very clearly: the topic is still complex, emotionally charged and solutions seem to be in the unattainable distance. But is that really the case? No. There are solutions, but we have to question our state of online marketing.

This time, for once, the current problem does not relate to the question “How do I obtain consent? The focus today is rather on the clear rules of the GDPR regarding third country transfers. These specify which data may be sent to an unsafe third country, regardless of the visitor’s consent.

One thing is clear: no personal data to the USA!

But what is personal data? A German data protection expert recently put it in a nutshell. Let’s imagine we’re at school, a student gets into mischief, and the teacher turns from the blackboard and asks the class, “Who did that?” Any information that helps the teacher identify the student is personal. So if the student is the only one in the classroom with a cap on, that info would be person-related. If three other students have a cap on – that info would not be personal.

So back to our problem student Google Analytics. This tool sends some problematic info to the states like the IP address of the visitor or a self-set ClientID which can be assigned to a user in the Google universe via 3rd party cookies.

The question is: What do we need personal data for?

  • Standard analytics? No. No real order ID helps us with a standard analysis. (e.g.: Fake IDs)
  • Geo Location? No. No full IP address helps us with GEO Location (e.g. shortened IP addresses).
  • Attribution? No. For attribution we only need the source and conversion.
  • Remarketing? Yes. For remarketing we need in most cases a 3rd party cookie, with which we identify the visitor to a service in the USA.

Accordingly, we have 2 tasks that we should take care of.

FIRST: We should start NOW to find alternatives for remarketing. As a reminder, there was also a time when good online marketers achieved very good results without remarketing. But to do that, we need to understand what makes our target audience tick. Yes it’s easier to set up remarketing and watch Google do the work for us, only that’s exactly where it ends now.

So what we need to change: We’re taking back sovereignty over our online marketing. This applies to both our data and our algorithms. We no longer need to illegally identify our visitors to third parties.

SECOND We must finally take responsibility for what data is sent elsewhere. In the final analysis, this means not sending any data with a personal reference to Google Analytics. This typically includes IP addresses, email addresses or order IDs. If you remember the class example from above, this can quickly become very complex. So the important thing is to find the right tool that can do this kind of anonymization for us.

The good news is that already in 2021, a technology appeared on the markets that can deliver all of this: Server Side Tracking. Server Side Tracking completely decouples the visitor with their browser and Google Analytics. In other words, Google Analytics no longer comes into contact with the visitor.

By using Server Side Tracking from a European provider, you become GDPR-compliant, even though you continue to use Google Analytics. The best thing about it: By the way, you also get back the sovereignty over your data. For the first time, you have the chance to access your full raw data and decide what you want to use it for (deep analytics, machine learning, personalization – the possibilities are endless).

One possible one-stop solution is JENTIS. We, as a European company, have been focusing on building a corresponding server side tracking product since 2016. Since we have been on the market since 2020, this technology is already asserting itself with large customers at home and abroad.