Google Analytics Experiment

As you probably know I’m in favour of privacy, which is why I use self-hosted Matomo (formerly known as Piwik) for analytics. This allows me to have control over what’s gathered, and do analytics without collecting personal data and instead do generic analysis like what posts are being read, are my readers visiting from desktop or mobile, what browser they’re using, what country they’re from… Which helps me make decisions like what browsers should be supported for my site, whether to focus on the desktop or mobile versions of the site, where servers should be located, what articles are popular and what to focus on in general.

However, Matomo seems to be gathering false data like search engines, crawlers, and bots in general and isn’t differentiating between actual users. Furthermore, it’s not registering where a user is visiting from. Are they clicking on a link on Google, DuckDuckGo or on a social platform like Mastodon?

I’m curious to know what Google Analytics (“the” analytics platform) has to say, and compare it with my Matomo data. If the data gathered is similar, this could prove Matomo to be a good alternative and help people to make the switch to Matomo.

I’m also curious what privacy features (if any) Google Analytics has to offer and whether it can be done in GDPR compliance.

Matomo for example lets me gather data without using cookies or JavaScript, which is a privacy (and compatibility) plus. I can tell it to not store the visitor IP and instead just resolve the region based on the IP and store the region.

On Google Analytics I do not get to see any personal data either, but Google likely stores and processes it, whereas my Matomo instance doesn’t store (or get) anything personal in the first place. In the privacy settings of Google Analytics I set it so that Google and its partners may not process and share the data. Whether they honour this or not is questionable.

I’ve given it some thought and decided to temporarily run Google Analytics as experiment in parallel to Matomo and then compare the two, and then share my findings with you.

If you do not want to take part in this experiment, the official Google way is to install their opt-out browser extension found here: https://tools.google.com/dlpage/gaoptout

If you don’t want to be tracked in general though, I’d honestly recommend using Firefox with uBlock Origin instead. It’s what I use. It’ll block all known trackers before they’re even loaded.

I will be running this experiment for one month and then disable Google Analytics in favour of privacy.

Thank you for reading this and my blog and hope you’ll be looking forward to my findings.

PS My theory is that Matomo might win as it’s a self hosted, unknown tracker, whereas Google Analytics is the big player every list and privacy extension blocks by default. Furthermore, Google Analytics relies on JavaScript, which is optional with Matomo.

See you in a month for the results!

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