What is perhaps an attempt to save a little face after several privacy disasters, Google has announced they’re working on a tool that will let users opt-out of being tracked by Google Analytics.
The announcement was brief and without much detail, but what we do know is that the “global browser based plugin” is in its final stages of testing—meaning we can probably expect an official release sometime in the near future.
We’re not exactly sure how Google’s going to get the new tool to work across all browsers. While Chrome is a given and Firefox is relatively plugin-friendly, browsers like Internet Explorer and Safari are another story. Moreover, we wonder what this move means for site owners and the overall dependability of Google data.
After all, Google Analytics is no small player. According to a study from the University of California, Berkeley, 71% of an estimated 400,000 high-ranking domains were using Google Analytics as of March 2009. This same study showed that Google AdSense was used by over 35% of those domains and Google DoubleClick by over 26 percent. We can only imagine how the numbers have changed in the last year.
Let’s just pretend that a great number of people end up installing the opt-out plugin. Given the numbers above, Google would essentially be crippling itself, and data for a large part of the net would be drastically inaccurate.
This is not to say that privacy should be ignored. In fact, a great talk about privacy was given at this year's SXSW conference. Danah Boyd, a social media researcher for Microsoft, specifically pointed out Google's mistakes with Buzz, labeling them non-technical errors. The violent reaction to Buzz not only proves that privacy is alive and well, but that people still care deeply about it. So, while our instincts say that an opt-out option won't be a huge hit, at the same time it's worth keeping track of.