Analytics : (over)due for a major re-think

There has been a lot of talk recently about privacy and the right of netizens (god, I feel old) to know who has their data, where it is and what is being done with it. Combine this with the growing realisation that for most organisations the secret to success on the web is to get a far deeper and more meaningful understanding of how people (not users, remember) are interacting with their web assets.

European law is now going to be tested to, in effect, allow people to opt-out forever from being watched on web-sites and with the introductions of Google’s new secure search engine (why exactly did it take them so long to introduce it?) are we seeing the beginning of the end for Google’s free web analytics (and more importantly, the hundreds of other uninspiring client-side, me-too, analytics applications that are peddled by myopic organisations). Clearly the Register think so.

It is interesting to see Google effectively “switch sides” on this and move closer to loving it’s users and somewhat leaving it’s corporate customers out in the cold. Yes, they will say that Google Analytics is free and provided “as is” but so many organisations have (maybe rashly) decided to use it as the standard reporting platform. What are they going to do now, I wonder? The ball is gaining some momentum with a company providing a browser plug-in to disable GA from your session. How long before that is a standard part of the browser and requires opt-in to activate it?

The recent furore over Google’s grabbing of personal data during the StreetView programme, Facebook’s alleged abuse of personal information and now the forcing of explicit opt-in for any cookie will change the game. Cookies are not evil, many organisations put them to really good and productive effect so the challenge for organisations now is to show really good reasons why they should track visitors and do so in an open transparent way and really add value.

Oh, and stop using random free services that are not well understood and have huge privacy issues – it’s just being lazy and treating your customer rather shoddily.