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Has it finally happened – has GDPR killed off web analytics in the European Union? No, probably not. But the updated local guidelines might mean that your data collecting in Google Analytics is not GDPR compliant in some markets – unless you take the right precautions as soon as possible.  

Let us start by saying that there is no need to panic. If you are feeling unsure about your Google Analytics setup, this might be the best time to get some help. In this blog, I explain what is happening with Google Analytics, which companies and countries are affected by this development, and what you need to focus on right now.  

What exactly is happening with Google Analytics? 

Ever since GDPR was launched in the European Union, there have been some doubts regarding what data you are allowed to collect with and without consent.  

Germany, Switzerland, and the Netherlands decided early on to set higher standards for the use of Google Analytics and other tracking tools and services. France, Austria, and Italy made the same conclusion. When The Danish Data Protection Agency released new guidelines regarding GDPR and Google Analytics, Denmark became the latest country to deem the usage of Google Analytics unlawful - when it’s not used correctly, that is. If you are not able to take the necessary precautions, you must stop using Google Analytics in Denmark and find a new tool to use. google-rezised

And that is the most important thing to keep in mind: Google Analytics is not “illegal” to use, and it can still be GDPR compliant, if you have the correct setup. This means that you need to consider the following factors before you continue to collect data in the above mentioned countries. Visit this blog to get an overview of the different countries cookie banner guidelines

If your company is active in several markets, and especially if you have operations outside of the EU, you need to pay even closer attention to your cookie management, data, and how you track visitors on your website. The US and the European Union are currently negotiating Privacy Shield 2.0, but a final data agreement is most likely not going to come until March 2023. 

How to make Google Analytics GDPR compliant

Here's how you can make sure your website and tracking is up to code: 

Cookie Consent Management – Take your cookies seriously  
  • Make sure your website’s cookie consent management is up to par with local regulations. 
  • Consider using a third-party tool to manage consent and cookies in all markets - but especially in markets such as Germany, France, Switzerland, Austria, and Denmark (we will update when and if more countries follow suit). 
  • We recommend using a tool such as Onetrust and Cookiebot to manage your cookies. Do you need help implementing or choosing a tool? Columbus has helped many companies with their cookie consent management – contact us for more information.  
Google Analytics 4 – It’s time to update  
  • If you want to use Google Analytics, only use Google Analytics 4 (GA4). 
  • Make sure that data sharing with other tools, like Google Signals, is disabled. 
  • If your GA4 setup is completed and functioning according to your wishes, stop collecting data in Google Analytics UA immediately (but do not delete old data, this might come in handy later).  
  • If you are not using Google Analytics 4, we recommend that you implement it as soon as possible. We have hosted a seminar on the topic, you can watch it here (for free, of course!).  

On March 1st Google will automatically start moving properties from UA to GA4 – learn more about what this means for you in this blog

Server-side tracking– A wise investment  
  • Consider server-side tracking: this is much more flexible and offers the possibility to track with a privacy first objective.  
  • Though server-side tracking is a larger project with some additional cost, it will be worth it in the long run. 
Look into other tracking tools– Google Analytics is not the be-all and end-all  
  • You might want to consider using other tracking tools instead of Google Analytics. There are many tools that you can host in your own infrastructure and gives you complete ownership of your data, for example Matamo.  
  • These tools do not integrate into Google’s other tools, such as Google Ads and Google Search console, but they are still viable options to consider.  

It’s important to update your Google Analytics setup - not only to be compliant, but also to get the most out of your data. This is also a good time to ask yourself what you actually need to measure, and what you have been measuring “just in case”.  

What happens now? 
It’s hard to say what is going to be happen next, and if more countries are going to interpret GDPR in the same way as The Danish Data Protection Agency. What we do know, is that it’s always important to keep yourself, and your tools, updated. We will follow the development of this topic closely. Contact us today if you would like to know more about how to collect data in a GDPR compliant way.  


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