Our Thoughts

What are ethical analytics?

There's a dark side to analytics and tracking as we know it today. The biggest players in the industry are exploiting your customers under the disguise of a "free" service.

The Problem

Disclaimer: This article is designed to be a very "layman" approach to introducing people to alternative analytics platforms. Generally, Google Analytics, Facebook Pixel and other giants do have their benefits and without them - some customers that love your product or service, may never have found you in the first place.

Web tracking is creepy. Imagine you're going to your favourite bakery and without your knowledge, somebody was watching from a distance and monitoring how long you were in there, what pastries you were looking at and what you almost bought.

The creep that is watching you knows exactly where you've been and has been watching you visit several other stores. The creep exploits that information and allows other stores to manipulate you because they know where you've recently been and what you're interested in.

Why was that creep watching you? Well, he told the bakery that he'd keep an eye on customers for them for free and let them know some basic metrics so that they can better serve their customers. It sounded great so the bakery accepted, unknowingly adding to the creeps' vast array of information and surveillance.

It would make a lot more sense if only your favourite bakery knew this information so they could better tailor their services to you, right?

The creep is Google Analytics. The creep is Facebook Pixel. These tools disguise themselves as free because the privacy of your users is the real cost. Invading privacy is free but it's certainly not ethical and it's a practice that really needs to stop.

If a customer visits your website or app, they realistically expect that anything they do on your website stays between you and them. When you visit a website that uses Google Ads, or Facebook Pixel, you become targetable as a visitor of that website.

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It's almost too easy.

There's also a good chance that you don't get the full picture of your visitors with those large services. They use domains that ad blockers can easily detect and prevent outgoing network calls.

The Solution

There's a number of services out there but our favourite by a long shot is Matomo - an open source analytics suite that allows you to either use their own cloud platform or host it yourself. The latter allows you to have absolute certainty that you're following any regulations such as GDPR or the CCPA. You can also import all existing Google Analytics data, so there's really not much reason to hold back.

Matomo still gives you the full suite of offerings that you'd see in the most popular services, whilst allowing you to retain that data. No more spreading your customers data across a giant tracking surveilance network and more time learning what your customers want from you.

That's not to say that Matomo is perfect - we found the UI and UX to be a bit clunky. The vast mountain of tutorials and documentation does make up for that though. It's also more difficult to understand the data if you haven't invested potentially dozens of hours learning everything in-depth. If you're using a larger, widely available platform - you can hire somebody rather easily to help you understand your data.

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Credit: Dayne Topkin / Unsplash

When you're not using Google Analytics or Facebook Pixel, you're limiting the amount of targeting your competitors can do to your potential customers whilst still being able to punish your competitors for using those tools and taking advantage of Google Ads yourself.

One of the tragic aspects of seeing businesses use Google Analytics and Facebook Pixel is that business owners or administrators install these tools using one-click integrations without understanding the pros and cons of the platforms. They've made it extrodinarily easy to exploit your customers.

Do some research and see just how deep the rabbit hole of analytics can go. We imagine that you'll want to find an alternative to the popular services after the fact and we whole-heartedly suggest that you go down that road. Let's start to build a better web for everybody. Liberating the web starts with you.

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