Analytics and a public apology
Today marks some personal progress on responsible use of technology. After making plans over a year ago, I’ve finally broken ground on replacing the invasive Google Analytics from my personal website and side projects.
Does that mean no analytics at all? No, it’s a valuable part of the stack. From experience, I get a lot of drive knowing how much traffic projects reach, when someone links to me, or whether a user stumbles into a script error.
It’s also an important development tool. As a developer, I’m accessing deployments from a handful of locations, usually with high internet speeds and a modern browser. While I could use market share data, that isn’t always representative.
However, I don’t need to know who my users are. Their age, gender, ethnicity, income, marital status, sexuality, mental health.. while I haven’t used these demographics myself, I’ve enabled their collection by using free services like Google Analytics, Facebook login, Twitter counters. And for that I apologise.
These services exchange powerful advertising, authentication, and marketing tools to track user behaviour. But they aren’t marketed transparently. Instead, I echo the idea we ban targeted advertising entirely.
Although analytics as a technology has been marred by these predatory tactics, I’ve found some alternatives I trust. In most cases, I’ll be replacing instances of Google Analytics to instead use Fathom, which doesn’t invade user privacy and offers the metrics I find important in exchange for a fair price.
While that’s certainly progress, I’ll also provide better scrutiny of these tools through consulting and teaching. As a consumer, I’ll state that I’m not okay when sites volunteer my private data in this way. And I’d encourage anyone else in my position to do the same. Only that way can we have the right impact.