Data Privacy

Understanding privacy friendly analytics

Over the last couple of weeks, we have talked about “privacy friendly” analytics quite a few times, and given the fact that we are a privacy friendly platform, I believe this topic is going to come up again and again in the weeks and months to come. So before we move any further, let us take a moment to understand what is the meaning of the term, why it is highly recommended, and most importantly, why it doesn’t limit your business’s opportunity for growth. The last point, in my opinion, is the most important. One which many fail to address. Let us keep aside my personal ethics and views about privacy for a second. The fact is, as a business owner, if I have to decide between being privacy friendly by not allowing any third party cookies that track my customers and the growth of my business, chances are I’ll always choose growth over being a privacy advocate.

Choices

No matter how reluctantly I make that decision, my first and foremost obligation would always be towards business growth. I can be GDPR and privacy law compliant by informing my visitors and taking their consent, but I won’t be sacrificing growth. Seems kinda harsh, I know, but I have seen multiple business owners be in similar situations multiple times, and every single time they have chosen growth. I won’t have the hubris to assume I would do it any differently - probably even with my personal ethics in play. That’s the honest truth.

Red pill

So, when we started designing a privacy friendly web analytics platform, that was our first priority. We just couldn’t compromise on growth. We needed to work with the constraints to come up with a solution that did both - respected consumers’ privacy and enabled growth for businesses.

So what exactly is privacy friendly analytics?

Well simply put, privacy friendly tools measure and analyze your data in a way that respects individual privacy of customers. Which means no more tracking your customers activity on an individual level, no IP address tracing - nothing that infringes on the individual’s rights. This way, businesses retain the much needed ability to measure metrics facilitating their data-driven decision making capabilities, while individuals get the security of having complete control over their personal data. In short, we all get what we want. Everyone is a winner.

Why it matters?

Well, for starters, privacy matters to your consumers today. They are now more aware of the data being tracked and collected on them, and most of them aren’t too happy about it. You show them you care about things they care about, and they will trust you for it. Trust builds credibility, forges relationships and drives transactions.

Then there is the need to be on the right side of the law. The most notable and recognisable name, of course, is GDPR - Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation. But more and more government and regulatory bodies are following suit. You have California’s California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), Brazil’s General Personal Data Protection Law (LGPD), Virginia’s Consumer Data Protection Act, Thailand’s Personal Data Protection Act 2019 and India’s Personal Data Protection Bill now, and it won’t be long before more names get added to the list. So businesses need to adapt to the changing tides of consumer privacy friendliness before they are forced to do so.

Make note, privacy friendly is different from privacy compliant.

Even Google Analytics can claim it is privacy compliant. After all, it is THE largest data measurement body in the world, so it would be hard for them not to be compliant. But that doesn’t mean they are not tracking your consumers’ data, or data about your business itself. It just means that they are ‘informing you about it’, giving your consumers a mechanism to stop tracking etc. Essentially, they are just doing enough to keep their hands clean and stay on the right side of law, while maintaining their data collection pipeline both lucrative, and fully intact.

And with consumers demanding more and more privacy with every passing day, just being compliant is not going to be enough.

As a business, it is easy for you to think that what Google Analytics does is not in your control, but your customers don’t and won’t see it that way. After all, you did decide to use Google Analytics, fully aware of what it means to the privacy of your consumers.

That’s why we recommend a privacy-centric, privacy-first and privacy friendly analytics tool, which gives you the best of both worlds. Respects your consumers’ privacy, and your need to make growth enabling data driven decisions. In short, we recommend Benne. ;-)

Not all cookies intrude privacy, and not all cookie free approaches respect it.

You will likely come across a bunch of platforms promoting themselves as being cookie-free, thereby asserting the notion of being privacy friendly. It isn’t necessarily true.

Take Google’s new technology, for example. Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC). According to Google, it is intended to replace third-party cookies, and so the company is promoting is as the preserver of privacy. Well, most experts disagree with Google on that. According to them, FLoC strengthens browser fingerprinting like never before - sharing users’ browsing data with advertisers. The difference is in the approach, and now instead of individual users, FLoC would be grouping visitors into interest based cohorts, based on their browsing history. So despite the high and mighty claims, FLoC just makes it easier to track individual users and share personal data with trackers to recognize visitors more efficiently. And, it does all of it without using cookies.

And that brings us to the next important point. Cookies. I am not sure how and when Cookies were made the boogeyman infringing consumers’ privacies, but Cookies, on their own, are pretty much harmless. It is how a business uses those cookies that is the culprit here. So the perpetrator is the business, not the cookie. And as we just witnessed with FLoC, if a business wants to infringe on your privacy, it can very well do so without employing the use of cookies.

So take note when a business wants you to make the inference that they are privacy friendly just because they don’t use cookies. If your consumers’ privacy matters to you, and in this day and age, it should, you want a business that unambiguously states they don’t track personal information, irrespective of their feelings towards cookies.

And that concludes today’s light reading. 🙈

If you have any questions about privacy friendly approach to growth, give us a shout. We would be happy to address any concerns.

That’s it for today, see you tomorrow.

Cheers,

Abhishek

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