A couple months ago, Google announced that it was developing a browser-based plug-in that would enable users (that is, site visitors) to opt out of data collection via Google Analytics. Surprisingly, the announcement never made the kind of marketing splash amongst retailers that our team expected it to.
Here's why that's surprising: last summer, UC Berkeley published a study showing that Google Analytics is being used on nearly 70% of the Web's top half-million domains. And, if you aggregate GA data with AdSense and DoubleClick, you find that Google has bugs on nearly 90% of those sites. Assuming that even a measly 5% of users opt-out of Analytics, that represents a major reduction in usable data for a majority of the world's websites.
We know, of course, that few users will actually exercise this option (we tried to find some metrics for how many people are using AdSense's similar plug-in to date... no luck, but we'll keep looking). And generally, we support good "corporate citizenship" and a degree of transparency that lets users control their PII. But that's not what we're talking about here -- we're talking about data that enables us to be better marketers and better information providers WITHOUT COMPROMISING OUR VISITORS' PRIVACY.
There's no question that the Facebook paradigm of continuously riling up the masses with frequent "sharing" and privacy changes is affecting the net trust that users have across the web. And we've recently heard that even basic retargeting feels intrusive to consumers, because they see tangible proof that their data is being collected and repurposed.
Google has an opportunity here to educate the public instead of letting it arbitrarily opt out of providing anonymized data that only helps us, as marketers, provide more relevant messages. In fact, we hope Google will step up and become a "bipartisan" advocate for consumers AND advertisers in the coming days. The recent publication of US House Representatives Boucher & Stearns Privacy legislation (PDF here)makes this kind of advocacy more critical than ever.
Are you worried about the proposed legislation? How about Analytics opt-out? Share your thoughts in the comments section.
We like this article from MediaPost about the growing Facebook backlash