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Unlocking GDPR Success: Four Tips to Simplify Data Privacy Compliance with Google Analytics

Unlocking GDPR Success: Four Tips to Simplify Data Privacy Compliance with Google Analytics

Google Analytics is widely recognized as a leading tool, providing website owners with valuable user behavior and performance insights. However, Google and its parent company Alphabet Inc. have faced scrutiny and even legal actions from European privacy activists due to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)—a regulation in EU law on data protection and privacy.  

Pavel Daineko, Head of Data Privacy at EPAM, explores Google Analytics and GDPR concerns on a daily basis. He knows what critical considerations and guidelines teams must follow for ensuring compliance, as his extensive industry experience includes a focus on ensuring compliance with GDPR and other data privacy regulations. Pavel’s work fosters a data protection culture throughout EPAM, and he consistently serves as the privacy and data protection laws subject matter expert, advising EPAM on legal, practical and business risks associated with data privacy. 

Pavel was excited to share with us his top four key things to look out for to ensure GDPR compliance using Google’s most recent release of the Analytics, GA4. Thanks to Pavel for sharing his expertise! 

Pavel, first can you please give us an example of the concerns and legal actions related to Google Analytics and GDPR? What do teams need to be most concerned about to ensure compliance? 

The Schrems II ruling and the invalidation of Privacy Shield drew attention to platforms like Google Analytics that store EU residents' data on US-based cloud servers. As a result, several European data protection authorities, including France's CNIL, Sweden's IMY and Belgium's APD have imposed fines on Google., have imposed fines on Google. 

So, bearing these in mind–what are your top four key considerations for ensuring GDPR compliance using Google Analytics? 

There are four major, important factors to address regarding Google Analytics GDPR compliance: 

1. Cookie Consent Management: 

  • Ensure that your website's cookie consent management aligns with local regulations. 
  • Consider using third-party consent management tools like OneTrust or Cookiebot to manage consent and cookies, particularly in EU markets like Germany, France, Switzerland, Austria, Italy and Denmark. 

2. Transition to Google Analytics 4: 

  • If you continue using Google Analytics, migrate to Google Analytics 4 (GA4). 
  • Disable data sharing with other tools, such as Google Signals. 
  • Anonymize the IP address before sending it to Google. While GA4 does not store the original IP address on disk, it may still process the IP address before anonymization for re-identification. 
  • Do not use persistent or cross-product identifiers. 
  • Remove all personally identifiable information (PII) from data sent to Google. 
  • Remove external referrer information. 
  • Remove all parameters contained in the collected URLs, including UTMs. 
  • Block the collection of browser fingerprints. 
  • Once your GA4 setup is complete and functioning as desired, stop collecting data in Google Universal Analytics immediately (but retain old data for future use). 

3. Consider Server-Side Tracking: 

  • Explore the option of server-side, cookieless tracking, which offers greater flexibility and prioritizes privacy. 
  • While server-side tracking may involve additional costs and a larger project, it can yield long-term benefits. 

4. Explore Alternative Tracking Tools: 

  • Consider using other tracking tools, such as Amplitude or Matomo, some of which can be hosted on your infrastructure and provide control over the collected data. 
  • Remember that these tools may not integrate with Google's other services, such as Google Ads and Google Search Console. However, they offer viable alternatives to consider. 

Maintaining GDPR compliance while using Google Analytics requires careful attention to guidelines and considerations. Do you have any final thoughts or recommendations for teams using GA4? 

I emphasize that organizations must comply with GDPR when using Google Analytics. By implementing proper cookie consent management, transitioning to Google Analytics 4, exploring server-side tracking and considering alternative tracking tools, companies can align their analytics practices with GDPR.  

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