child eating cotton candy: all volume, air and sugar
PHOTO: Patryk Sobczak

If 50 million websites are actively using Google Analytics, then according to my calculations this could be resulting in 100 million kg of CO2 pollution a year. You’d need to plant 10 million trees to deal with that sort of pollution.

Most of these 50 million websites will find out very little by using Google Analytics because the vast majority of analytics data is not useful to a typical organization. If you are using Google Analytics you are slowing down your site. For what? You have also signed up to be a surveillance capitalist. You think you are getting Google Analytics for free, when in fact Google is using you to track people because selling the data it gets from tracking people is how it makes 90% of its revenue. If you have Google Analytics on your site — or any other tracking software — then you are an unpaid tracker for surveillance capitalism. Those nice little colorful social media share buttons are spying on the people who visit your site and sending their info to Twitter or Facebook. Why? Why do you do that?

Tracking has many costs. It makes the web heavier and slower. It creates a web of psychological control. It strips us of our privacy. Why? Most of this tracking and analysis of what people do on a website doesn’t even improve revenue. It just adds weight and complexity.

  • A Dutch national broadcaster removed tracking software from its website and saw revenue rise.
  • After GDPR, The New York Times cut off ad exchanges in Europe — and kept growing ad revenue.
  • In January 2020, Gartner predicted that by 2025, 80% of marketers who have invested in personalization will drop their personalization efforts.

Why? Not everyone likes being tracked, likes allowing companies to know about their inner lives. The more digital we become the more we will realize that data privacy is a human right.

Data analysis is really, really hard to do well. If you have a huge spike in visitors coming to your website, is that a good or a bad thing? Are the web teams of government health websites dreaming about pandemics in the hope of getting more visitors? Website analytics metrics feed the Cult of Volume. Often, marketers and communicators are addicted to volume, chasing the next hit as they try and turn their visitors into addicts through “engagement” tactics. Such tactics rarely add value for anyone.

Why? Digital is speed and the more digital a society becomes the faster things become. We should not, however, confuse new, innovative and fast with good, appropriate and useful. We are analog machines in an increasingly digital world. We can’t speed up to meet digital so we should slow digital down, put some necessary constraints in place. Otherwise, digital becomes this massive accelerator of wasteful activity as it generates enormous quantities of toxic data waste.

Read part 3, part 2 and part 1.