Google Announces Ways to Opt-out of Analytics

analytics-trackingIn a move that will surely upset those obsessed with their web stats, and bring some joy to those concerned with online privacy, Google has announced that they are offering tools to opt-out of their very popular Analytics.

For site owners and stats jockeys, the ability for individuals to more easily hide visits to web sites using Analytics is a bad thing. They want to know as much as possible about everyone that visits. If more people don’t get “tracked”, they might feel that their efforts to create content to move people toward certain goals, funnels/calls-to-action, will be less effective.

For privacy nuts, they’ve probably already been blocking Analytics Javascript code using techniques like I’ve discussed in “How to Hide from Google“. But with Google publicly allowing people to opt-out of this tracking, and to make it as easy as a plugin to your browser, those less technically skilled will also be able to block Google’s tracking code.

My concern with Analytics is that while it is VERY useful for site owners (I use it myself on some sites), the fact that it is used by SO MANY sites all reporting back to GOOGLE, makes for some serious questions on privacy. I don’t mind that site owners do some SITE-LEVEL tracking — I mean, it’s built into the web server anyway — it’s just when all that information from all those different sites is sent to ONE entity — Google — it raises some serious flags.

So, I welcome whatever tools Google has that will allow users the option to opt-out of site tracking. Also included is the ability for site owners to anonymize IP address information sent to Google through Analytics — for site owners that love Analytics, but are concerned about the issues I’ve discussed above.

(Thanks Google! :))

Interesting recent stories

Here’s a selection of some interesting privacy stories:

Google Street View logs WiFi networks, Mac addresses

Protect Your Privacy Opt Out of Facebook’s New Instant Personalization – Yes You Have to Opt Out

Facebook May Not Be Skynet, but It Is Getting Smarter, and That’s Bad for Google: “Facebook has managed to succeed where Google has failed — turning your social behavior into actionable intelligence.”

How To “Hide” From Google

Hiding from Google

First, you may be wondering, WHY hide from Google. The answer is that perhaps you don’t want one entity to know all about you, your friends, and your internet activities. But, there are many people that WANT to be found by their name and activities; they don’t mind that old relationships, strangers, or advertisers know about their personal lives. If you are one of those, this article isn’t for you — go back to Twittering about your MySpace page on your Android phone.

skynet_productGood, now that the Google fanboys are out of the room, let’s talk. Data; yours, mine, and everyone else’s, is slowly “moving to the clouds”. More and more companies are using cloud-based applications, like Google Docs, instead of their desktop version, Microsoft Windows. As Google Europe boss, John Herlihy, said: “In three years desktops will be irrelevant” . Even Steve Ballmer, head of Microsoft has said that cloud computing is a $3.3 trillion industry, something he’s betting his company on. Once your data is in the hands of someone else, how much real control do you have with it? As Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt has said in regards to Google and privacy concerns, “If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.” .

It used to be easier to hide from Google. You could simply stop using their search engine.
Google Search Engine: everyone knows and loves this. AVOID. Try for proxy searches, or use Bing or Yahoo.

Gizmodo has a good article on how to quit using Google products (such as Buzz, Gmail, Docs, etc.) — but that is only the start.

Google has invested in some very clever ways to make itself part of your everyday experience, even if you don’t realize it. This isn’t to say that Google is all evil or all good. What they do with the huge amounts of data they have isn’t entirely clear to those outside the company. They do, however, make a huge portion of their profits from targeted advertising. If you value your privacy and don’t want Google to have access to it, you’ll need to consider these other, more hidden, Google products:
Continue reading How To “Hide” From Google

Flash cookies and privacy

If you are concerned about your online privacy, then you should already know about “cookies” — small files that are stored on your computer that websites write information to.   These cookies are largely used to help with the functionality of the website, maintaining your “session” as you move around the site.  They can also store your login information, so you don’t have to enter your username and password each time.   On the negative side of things, they can also be used to track you, recording what you choose each time you visit the site.   And there are “tracking site” cookies used mostly by advertising sites.   Because many websites have advertising on them, and many are from the same large advertising companies, those ad companies can “track” you on the websites that you visit, along with what you might have done on those “partner” sites.

There are multiple ways to handle cookies, but here is just one quick solution. If you use Firefox, you can still have the postive aspects of cookies, but have them deleted each time you close the browser — so, it’s like starting fresh each time with the website.   You can control your cookies in Firefox by going to Tools, Options, Privacy (in Mac it’s File, Preferences, Privacy), and “Keep Cookies Until I Close Firefox”.

So, you think you are free of cookies then, right?!   Not really.   You may be still being tracked using “Flash cookies” — cookies that Adobe’s Flash program uses.   Flash is what makes the videos on YouTube work, and are also some of the MOST ANNOYING ADS on the Internet.

Continue reading Flash cookies and privacy