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Use of Google Analytics on WebmasterWorld

     
5:22 am on Apr 8, 2009 (gmt 0)

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WW is a place where a lot of controversial discussion happens, also covering Google. This does not come as a surprise given Google's market dominance.

So, I was very surprised when I noticed for the very first time today that WW is apparently using Google Analytics to gather usage statistics. Maybe thanks to a slower Internet connection, maybe through a bottleneck at Google, but for the fraction of a second I saw that the browser was calling something on Google Analytics. I double checked the source code of the page, and yes - there it was: a call to Google Analytics.

Which is something I can not support.

IMO it is a very bad idea to use Google Analytics on WW. No, I don't want Google to be able to track what I write on WW. No, I don't want Google to be able to assign my posts on WW to my websites and to my name. No, I do not any longer feel safe to say anything negative about Google here. Yes, I think this violates my freedom of speech here.

And before the Google fanboys jump in to tell me that I still can write what I want - I know. Don't worry. You won. I am taking the consequences. I will end my active participation in WW now. Maybe I'll continue to lurk, but forget about me posting here. It's been an awesome time, and I am going to miss the forums a lot.

Thanks to all, and goodbye.

[Now off to cleaning all the cookies and stuff from Google.]

5:48 am on Apr 8, 2009 (gmt 0)

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While I might agree in spirit, I also believe that webmasters can do as they think best for their enterprise. I kill all cookies/scripts I don't like with NoScript... and allow only the ones that are reasonable. google-analytics is one I don't like. :)
10:20 am on Apr 8, 2009 (gmt 0)

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Now I have seen everything. Perhaps someone should write a Firefox plugin for people who want to avoid sites that use GA or are somehow connected to Google.

Does google.com use GA? The mind boggles.

11:07 am on Apr 8, 2009 (gmt 0)

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Perhaps someone should write a Firefox plugin for people who want to avoid sites that use GA

Avoiding a site that uses GA is going to limit you from using a very very large number of the internet pages in existence today. However, as tangor mentioned, the NoScript add-on handles blocking tracking scripts and analytics just fine. Also, change your preferences to "ask me every time" for cookies and you can block them too. It's very easy to do.

when I noticed for the very first time today

Actually, it was the day before. I noticed right away because of the way my browser is configured and I visit here once or twice throughout the day if I am able.

Google is crawling this site. Google is crawling my site. Google crawls your site, hopefully. Just because the owner of a web site decides to use another form of analytics for marketing research, testing, whatever the reason -- it doesn't mean Google has violated your privacy nor does it mean the web site owner is violating your privacy.

11:22 am on Apr 8, 2009 (gmt 0)

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this is not good. Surely we can use something here a bit more proprietary than GA, particularly given the concerns over this product already expressed by many members of the community?

The last thing many of us need is the ability for Google to track the fact that we participate here. Or more correctly, for Google to be handed the ability to track the fact that we participate here.

11:46 am on Apr 8, 2009 (gmt 0)

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it doesn't mean Google has violated your privacy nor does it mean the web site owner is violating your privacy.

I agree.

But don't you think it is tempting to check who are the active Google critics? And maybe they are doing it all for fun, just to prove the point they could find out, like a joke between programmers between two meetings?

I think WW should indeed look at using some proprietary means.

And now I am off. Really. :-)

11:55 am on Apr 8, 2009 (gmt 0)

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Mmmm. I'm logged in to my Google account for work, and I'm posting here.

G, should they wish, now know my WebmasterWorld handle, and can associate it with my Google account. My employer's site is now tied to my comments here.

I don't think I like that thought.

However, they know so much already, this is unlikely to make much difference in the grand scheme of things

12:56 pm on Apr 8, 2009 (gmt 0)

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However, they know so much already, this is unlikely to make much difference in the grand scheme of things

that's a matter of opinion, and in this community there's plenty of dissenters.

I'm leaning more towards Zett's approach but I'm willing to wait a day or so to see what's really up with this.

1:04 pm on Apr 8, 2009 (gmt 0)

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If you worry a lot about google analytics, I'd suggest to switch to Firefox+NoScript and configure it so that google-analytics.com is disallowed to run javascript.
2:42 pm on Apr 8, 2009 (gmt 0)

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We are looking through the various analytics packages. We will switch to something else next week. If you don't like it, then put it in your hosts1 file to block it here and everywhere.

> using some proprietary means.

We do, and we are comparing all the services to our internal tracking service.

Although GA (and other javascript/image trackers) are inferior to pure log file analysis in almost every regard - Google does offer a couple of data points that we can't match. Even after just a few different tests, some interesting data is coming to light. We have discovered what we think is one script was not calling our internal tracking script and that was leading to a small error in our daily unique calculations. That is important when you have used the same tracker for almost a decade.

thanks
bt

(1) ... open your "hosts" file located on Win XP in this directory /windows/system32/drivers/etc/ and add this line:

127.0.0.1 google-analytics.com

and google analytics will never see you again on any site.

8:50 pm on Apr 8, 2009 (gmt 0)

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zett, don't you use AdSense?
12:49 am on Apr 9, 2009 (gmt 0)

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Brett's hosts advice is spot on, and works with all browsers (don't have to use FF and NoScript for this to work).

What it boils down to is there are few on the web (mostly us here at WW) who even know about such things, much less care. This behind the scenes methodology of the web is virtually unknown to Joe and Sue User...and even if they knew would they care?

I don't like tracking scripts of any kind because they slow me down, and cookie management is a PITA, so I don't deal with non-essential cookies. It's a trade-off. Only "you" can determine how much you are willing to trade.

Some sites are so intrusive I don't bother with them. Those that seek reasonable metrics I allow, but I have no illusions that Joe and Sue User know what the heck we're hot and bothered about.

Brett, thanks for letting me play in your sandbox, even if I don't play with all the toys.

9:15 pm on Apr 20, 2009 (gmt 0)

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April 8, 2009
We will switch to something else next week.

April 20th (april 8th + > 7days
"google-analytics.com/ga.js

wheel is nervous. wheel visits places with Google analytics, but not as 'wheel' and not posting on SEO.

Analytics that are available only to WebmasterWorld admin please!

11:22 pm on Apr 21, 2009 (gmt 0)

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But don't you think it is tempting to check who are the active Google critics? And maybe they are doing it all for fun, just to prove the point they could find out, like a joke between programmers between two meetings?

But we have had Google employees here for years - Googleguy, AWA, ASA - all identifiable as Google staff, and who's to say if a few more don't check in for their personal interest.
8:57 am on Apr 23, 2009 (gmt 0)

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Yes, but they only have my alias so long as they merely read.

Now, through analytics, they have tied my alias to my (employers') web properties. Now I'm not an anonymous poster, I'm a specific individual with discernable internet interests. Not cool.

9:00 am on Apr 23, 2009 (gmt 0)

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Also, I'd be a bit peeved if you gave Googleguy, AWA, ASA, Matt Cutts et al Mod or Admin status
9:07 pm on May 7, 2009 (gmt 0)

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So is this permanent now? WebmasterWorld uses Google analytics?

FWIW, I figure this'll be pretty much my last post here under this username while that stuff's running here. I'm not even inclined to visit here while logged in, I've been mostly reading logged out. Which means my having a subscription is getting pointless as well. I say that not to be stupid; I've no problem with Google analytics or WebmasterWorld - my concern lies with the connection of the three dots...WebmasterWorld, Google Analytics, and my posts here. All three together and Google can uniquely identify me AND tie me to my posts.

9:53 pm on May 7, 2009 (gmt 0)

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If you don't think Google knows who you are by now, give it up, they probably do.

They definitely know who I am, and many other critics, and they don't seem to care.

Sometimes Google even asks their critics how we think they should do things better.

Run NoScript in FF and block GA, not a problem, or drop them in your HOSTS file.

This isn't rocket science people, it's web 101 privacy, easy as pie.

10:54 pm on May 7, 2009 (gmt 0)

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I was going to add the host file solution but Brett got there first :)

I am concerned by the all pervasiveness of Google Analytics, not on a personal level, but because of Google's ability to leverage it position to give it a near monopoly in the javascript tracking space.

I would also not worry about Google singling out its critics for 'punishment', if anything I believe they would rather hear constructive criticism of their performance and offerings than fawning sycophants who just say everything is wonderful, often before they have even tried the facility on offer.

And tangor is absolutely correct that Joe and Jane User don't really have a clue about what is going on - I had someone today tell me a site they use on a daily basis was broken. It turned out that it wouldn't display properly in Google Chrome - which incidentally they had installed because of Google displaying a notice saying 'improve your browsing experience upgrade to Google Chrome' or some similar wording. They just took everything that Google said and acted on it without even questioning it.