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Seven Reasons We Think This Issue is Overblown

Why are we so afraid of our IP addresses being tracked when we visit sites that use Google Analytics or some other sort of web analytics service? Is it the idea that somehow a server in the United States or some other foreign country might intercept and archive our “personal” IP address? That perhaps a court in that foreign country might someday require the owner of the server to disclose that information? We visit a huge number of web sites every day that are either foreign-owned and operated or hosted by foreign service providers. Is this issue just a result of paranoia and fear-mongering, or is there some legitimacy to these concerns?

Here are seven reasons why any organization that takes privacy seriously should be comfortable with Google Analytics:

  1. Google already knows your IP, what you’re looking for and where you went to get it.
    As soon as you’ve done a search, Google already knows your IP and what search terms you used. When you click the link to the website you think has what you’re looking for, Google also knows that you went to that particular website. Not only that, but unlike Google Analytics, which only tracks visitors to one site, Google Search knows every site every Google user has gone to via the search engine results page. And since Google is constantly indexing the relevant web, documenting the contents of every website to help you find it better, they also know what’s on the website you’re on your way to.
  2. Your IP is useless information on its own. If Google has your IP address, all they know from that is who your Internet Service Provider (ISP) is. To find out who you are, or at least who pays the Internet bill, they would have to ask your ISP. Thankfully, since ISPs want to keep taking your money, they generally aren’t interested in telling just anyone who you are short of a court order – after all, violating your privacy isn’t good business. Besides, everyone hates their ISP enough as it is.
  3. Google isn’t interested in keeping your IP any longer than they need to. Google Analytics discards visitor IP info as soon as it has figured out generally where the visitor came from. All Google really needs to know is what decent-sized city you’re closest to, then you’re off the hook.
  4. Google doesn’t care as much about you as you think. This might sound bad, but seriously, Google only wants to know enough about you to sell more ads for vacations, jewelry and pharmaceuticals. They don’t even care whether you, specifically and in particular, actually buy those things, they just need to know how many people are looking for them so they can get more money from advertisers.
  5. Google doesn’t want to be Big Brother. Who would use Google if they were guaranteed to divulge all of the most intimate details of their lives by doing so? Google doesn’t know, or need to know, about your shoe size, your weight, your preference for organic foods or your irrational fear of potatoes. That is, unless, you’re looking for a particular pair of shoes in your size, some way of losing (or gaining) weight, a place to get organic food or a psychiatrist to help you shake your peur de pommes de terre. In that case, they just want to help you find what you’re looking for.
  6. Google bends over backwards to keep private things private. Just look at their privacy policy! No, seriously, look at it. I’ll wait for you to finish. Google has one of the most progressive and comprehensive privacy policies in the search business. Because of this, they are one of the most sensitive and proactive companies with regard to the privacy of their users.
  7. Google gave us a web browser with a “privacy mode”! If Google were so worried about getting every juicy detail about our privacy lives, would they have added “Incognito Mode” to their web browser, Google Chrome? Take a look!

There you have it. Although we should all take the issue of privacy very seriously in web analytics, we all need to realize that Google is not our number one enemy in this; in many cases, they’re doing everything they can to help us keep private things private.

PublicInsite Web Analytics Inc.

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