What do Google, GDPR & the Cookie Monster have in common?

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You may already be aware of the massive change in the digital marketing world that’s on the horizon. This comes in the form of tracking user data online. With Google being the only big player left tracking cookies in their browser, and their multiple setbacks in removing the use of cookies from Chrome, what will a cookie-less world look like? With multiple countries in the EU deeming Google Analytics unlawful, where do we turn to? Let’s find out!

Let’s begin where it all started – with tracking user data online

Since the change in EU law and the introduction of GDPR, we have all become accustomed to the daily cookie consent’ popups when we visit websites. We thought this might be the solution to help us digital marketers continue to track our user’s behaviour, of course now with their consent. But why then have multiple EU countries now banned the use of Google Analytics? If users are consenting to their data being tracked by Google and the website owner, what’s still being considered unlawful?

The issue here is that Google passes on users’ data via Analytics to the United States. US surveillance laws require US providers (like Google or Facebook) to supply personal data to US authorities. This conflicts with the EU’s GDPR laws in Europe and the UK.

But guys, GA4 (Google Analytics 4) will be fully released next year. Won’t this solve all our issues?

In short – maybe? If you didn’t already know, Google is replacing its current version of Analytics (Universal Analytics, or UA) with GA4 next year. This means that on July 1st, 2023, GA4 will completely replace the current version of Analytics that we have come to love (or hate) over many years. Keep an eye out for our separate upcoming blog which will cover GA4 in more detail.

GA4 brings many changes, mostly for the better, for us digital marketers. This iteration of Analytics was also supposed to be better for user data privacy, as it allows more control over what data is or isn’t tracked on our websites. However, the current outlook of whether GA4 will follow GDPR in EU law is uncertain.

As of the end of 2022, GA4 isn’t fully GDPR compliant. Despite adding all the above-mentioned privacy-orientated features, GA4 still has not reached a consensus with European regulators”.

Regardless of GA4 changing the way it processes data and IP addresses within the EU on servers in the EU, and processing of IP addresses for geo-location without their storage – the EU still consider its use non-compliant. This may change, as GA4 is still in development. But right now, it’s not clear if GA4 will meet the requirements set by the EU

So, what do we do now?*

This is a tricky question to answer. Here are x 3 potential options for you to follow:

If you currently operate within the EU countries that have banned Google Analytics (Holland, France, Austria, Italy & Denmark) — we strongly suggest reviewing your country’s guidance and change in law

Each country has different guidelines on how to proceed, some have outlawed it completely, while others have provided new guidance’. So ensure you are fully aware of the change in law or guidance in your country. In Austria (where this all kicked off) one business received a potential fine of up to €20 million or 4% of the organisation’s global turnover and considerable damage to its brand and reputation. The good news is there are multiple alternatives out there, so do some research, or keep an eye out for our other upcoming blog which will cover alternative options for EU-law-compliant analytics tools. There are pitfalls to this, as many businesses use the entire Google suite of digital tools. There are also integrations with other platforms and other considerations, so ensure to take the time to test and assess which tools will best replace Google if it’s deemed unlawful for your particular business or country. 

If you are operating within the EU but your country hasn’t yet banned Google

It’s still a good idea to consider an alternative analytics tool. Although it has been deemed unlawful in the EU, Google Analytics has not been banned in the EU. This may change. As other countries are already considering joining the ban squad. The risk of this happening might make it logical to switch early, so you aren’t left scrambling for a solution. It is worth noting, however, that GA4 has not been finalised. There is a chance that Google will change the way the tool works to meet the EU requirements. Undoubtedly, it is in their best interests to do so, but it’s unclear if and how this will happen.

If you are operating outside the EU

Well, no problem for you then! Unless, of course, your user’s data privacy is something you are concerned about. Always check your country’s law when it comes to data privacy – you don’t want to end up with a fine. It’s safe to assume that GA4 will be the best solution for you if you currently use the Google suite of digital marketing tools. However, you still may want to investigate other tools. GA4 can be switched on today, so it makes sense to turn it on alongside your existing UA account. This means data will start to be collected in GA4 in advance of the changeover next year.

*Please note: TBT Marketing is not responsible for providing legal advice on data privacy laws. Please ensure you check your own digital activity complies with your country’s laws, and other worldwide laws, such as GDPR.

Here at TBT, our Future Focused approach to marketing ensures we are best placed to help our clients navigate this changing digital landscape, ensuring their projects and campaigns deliver maximum impact. Get in touch today and let’s strengthen your future together.

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