Google provides Analytics opt-out for enhanced privacy

Google is taking measures to enhance users’ privacy with two additional features being rolled out.

The first is the Google Analytics Opt-out Browser Add-on. Google Analytics is one of the most popular choices for businesses to collect and analyse website data, but not everyone is keen on the idea of their data being used in this way.

The new add-on blocks data from being sent from your computer when you visit a website that uses the Google Analytics javascript known as ga.js. Of course, disabling Javascript would also protect users, but that also disables the functionality of many websites.

It is currently being offered as a beta for Chrome, Firefox, and Internet Explorer. It is not available for other browsers yet.

Google is also allowing webmasters using its Analytics service to anonymise IP addresses sent to Google, offering a further level of privacy for website visitors. The new option will mean that only a portion of an IP address is transmitted instead of the entire thing, making it impossible to identify the users, but still offering geographical identification. Google has admitted that this may lead to less accurate results, however, and it is unlikely many webmasters will want the added privacy for their customers at the expense of accurate data.

Director of Product Management at Google Analytics said that Google wants to provide “users with transparency and choice when it comes to privacy”, which these new measures certainly suggest.

The problem is that it has already angered many Google Analytics users, who feel the opt-out measures will result in inaccurate data. Some of those users have commented that they have been misled by Google into adopting its service on the basis that they will be able to analyse the data of visitors to their websites. Now there is a potential that all of their visitors could opt out, leaving webmasters with nothing to go on. Even if only a handful ov website visitors use the add-on it could skew the website data.

It is clear that Google is getting worried that its reputation may be tarnished by privacy concerns, such as the recent Street View data snooping, so we may see more efforts in the future to enhance privacy throughout Google’s products.

The Opt-out add-on can be downloaded here.