1. What Is Google Analytics and How Does it Collect Data?
Google Analytics is a free software tool created by Google that helps digital professionals monitor and analyze website traffic.
It collects data by placing a cookie on a user’s browser when they visit your site, thereby providing insights such as how many users you have, where they are from, and which pages they click on.
Google Analytics Terms of Service
Clause 7 states:
By signing up for Google Analytics, you agree to these terms, and therefore need to abide by their requirements when you use the software.
Google Analytics and Complying With Privacy Laws
Here’s an overview of the main privacy laws that affect US companies:
- General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) — Applies to any business that targets users in the European Union (EU) or European Economic Area (EEA), and focuses on transparency in data processing.
- ePrivacy Directive (ePD) — Works in tandem with the GDPR and has strict requirements for obtaining valid consent to cookies.
- California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) — Gives California consumers new rights, such as the right to know what information is collected about them.
- Disclose that you use Google Analytics to track user behavior
- Explain how you store and process the data you collect
- Inform users that you deploy analytics cookies
Here are three of the most common Google Analytics advertising features, and the insights they provide:
- AdWords Remarketing — uses behavior, demographic, and interest data to identify users who are likely to convert, and then allows you to target those users with remarketing campaigns through Google Ads
- Demographics and Interests Reporting — provides insight into the age, gender, and purchase interests of users, which you can use to better target your advertisements
- Google Display Network (GDN) Impression Reporting — measures the impact of unclicked GDN Display ad impressions on conversions and site behavior
If you use these features, Google’s policy requirements state that you must notify users about the additional data collection by saying which advertising features you implemented, how you use additional cookies, and how visitors can opt out of this advertising.
When writing this section, it’s important that you use clear language rather than legalese, so the average user can understand your policy.
Of course, although it’s valuable to take inspiration from how prominent sites phrase their policies, it’s always best to keep your clauses specific to your business and its unique practices.
Allowing Users to Opt Out of Google Analytics Tracking
Along with making users aware of how Google’s ad features are collecting their data and affecting their experience online, you need to allow users to opt out of data collection.
SoundCloud’s policies include a detailed section on opting out of data collection, with a list of options and external links for users to follow in order to act on their preferences.
As you can see, the first option is a link to Google’s browser add-on.
Both the standard and advertising features of Google Analytics rely on placing cookies on the user’s browser, which we will discuss in the next section.
4. Google Analytics and Cookies
- What types of cookies (e.g., analytics, advertising, social media) you use and why you use them
- If you use additional tracking technologies (e.g., web beacons)
- How users can set their cookie preferences
Allow Users to Consent to Cookies
The UK Information Commissioner’s Office has a good example of an effective Google Analytics cookie consent banner.
The banner appears when users first visit the site, and includes:
- An explanation of cookie practices in clear language
- A specific mention of how cookies are used for Google Analytics tracking
- An opt-in mechanism (e.g., a toggle) that allows users to consent to cookies
Follow this or other cookie consent examples and you’ll build trust with your users as well as obtain valid cookie consent to your use of Google Analytics.
- Understand how Google Analytics collects data via cookies
- Find out which privacy laws you need to comply with
- Explain in clear language how you use additional advertising features
- Obtain valid cookie consent if necessary
To create your own policy, simply download the template, and customize it to the requirements of your business.