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Why We Should Not Use Analytic Tools On Our Websites?

Written By Ehsan Ul Haq on June 7, 2021 at 6:01 pm

In this Article we will explore one of the main reasons why ethically aware WebMasters and Developers should not use Analytic Tools on our Websites or Applications.

Visiting a website and relentlessly clicking “I Agree” is a regular user experience. Millions of websites use first- or third-party cookies and users cannot proceed on the website without giving up their so-called consent to monitor and store user data.

First-party cookies are used to register regular users and provide better service. They help the business to understand the user’s visits and their needs. Understanding consumer behavior is a crucial requirement for companies to make decisions. How much to produce, how much to store, where to market, where to sell, and what to sell.

All these decisions have strong standing based on consumer behavior. And as long as it is restricted to the single website and the user’s permission and provision of desired data, it is acceptable.  But the problem began with third-party cookies.

Facebook and Google were under strict investigation for invading user’s privacy through third-party cookies, sniffing, or other analytical tools. Stored within the user’s device, third-party cookies monitor all of the user’s activities online and report back to the master web.

Now, understanding user’s surfing or scrolling pattern help data munching giants in creating targeted ads which “apparently” serves the consumer. So why the world is so much concerned and where does it go wrong?

Why We Should Not Use Analytic Tools On Our Websites

It becomes far more crucial to be followed by MNCs and digital giants as it was introduced and imposed by developed nations (USA-Griswold vs Connecticut 1965) and all the data giants usually belong to developed countries. It is an ethical responsibility.

Firstly, there is no excuse for the invasion of privacy. The right to privacy is a globally acknowledged and agreed upon human right (Article 12 of UN Declaration of Human Rights Article, 1948).

Secondly, it supports manipulation. It is extremely wrong when companies become manipulative and impulse buying behavior is induced in users through the constant bombardment of ads.

Advertisement techniques such as subaudible messages, subvisual messages, or backmasked messages are subtly developed psychological techniques that users are not aware of. Many countries have serious jurisdictions but surprisingly, the USA has no serious restrictions to control such marketing approaches. 

Thirdly, it creates corporate monopoly and a sense of control, which leave users, and in many cases even governments at the mercy of profit-oriented corporations. 

What is FLoC and why is Google under fire for introducing it?

Google is one of the biggest search engines used globally. Bing, Yahoo, Baidu, edge, and Yandex are search engines with limited regional reach. Google, on the other hand, sounds more like a default engine to users.

Out of 7 Billion population on earth, nearly 4 Billion are google users. It makes Google, the biggest shareholder in the market. Google was roasted by critics and law firms for using third-party cookies to tear user’s privacy, so it introduced FLOC (Federal Learning of Cohort). It looked safe and better at first glance but FLOC turned out worse than third-party cookies.

How does FLoC work?

data tracking

As name rhymes with flock (a group), the idea is to categories users based on similar interests. Google claimed that putting users in categorize or groups will hide them in the cluster. Each cohort or cluster will be given a number (Cohort Identification Number) which when reverse engineered, will be tagged with every user too. It makes every user far more vulnerable to cyber-attacks and property theft.

Take it like this. A user’s search history is run through several analytical tools to match them and their interests with other users. And this entire cohort now shares one identification number. Being tagged without consent is the price that users have to pay to keep using Google Chrome.

And since the browsing history of a user can vary from food to automobiles to movies to clothing brands, each user will be put in multiple cohorts. Since Google earns almost 50% of its revenue from Google ads, now it will charge marketers for placing a bid on Cohorts and not demographics of individuals. It’s an old game with a new name and much more twisted rules.

Here’s the catch. According to Google’s explanation, these cohorts are big enough to disguise a single user but precise enough to generate a cutting-edge audience for targeted ads.

Google promised that no third-party cookies will be following you, but every site that you visit will be provided with your Cohort Identification Number, making the user a potential customer. Since websites already are very specific about what they’re selling, your browsing history will build a new profile, specifically for the cohorts.

A complicated and quite lengthy form of “terms and conditions” is presented to the user to sign first. This is how data munching giants escape rule of law, by tricking the user into giving consent.

Electronic Foundation Frontier (EFF) and several digital companies such as Firefox, Safari, Duckduckgo, Edge, Github, and Opera have strongly opposed the implementation of FLoC.

The model is being tested in countries including Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Canada, Japan, India, Indonesia, and Mexico. Users in these countries can specifically test if they are part of the test-run by EFF provided website Am I FLoCed?

Since it is neither ethical nor legal to invade user privacy, how will Google achieve its implication? Well, there’s always a loophole if you want one. Remember the privacy agreement that users sign by clicking on “I Agree”. Every time a user creates a new profile to access Google’s services such as email, chrome, Docs, etc.

Google indeed has a wide market and a good user experience. But is that experience worth risking one’s sensitive information? Privacy is a fundamental human right and tricking people into giving in is a manipulation done by the corporate sector years after years.

Oil was the currency of the twentieth century and data is fuel for the twenty-first, but that is not an excuse to manipulate users. With the achievement of several milestones, it’s time that humanity accomplishes respect for consent.

Users can protect their data by switching to better alternatives. Certainly, it will be challenging but worth it.

Conclusion

Users can protect their data, and the data of their visitors, by switching to better alternatives such as self hosted analytical tools, if analytical tools are really necessary for the specific project, or simply not using any such tool. Certainly, it will be challenging but worth it. New businesses should develop websites without such sneaky tools that spy on their visitors. We will elaborate in our next Post about possible alternatives.

While building a new website or software, developers should consider it their ethical responsibility to not include third-party cookies or analytical tools that follow the users throughout the internet – that is what we are doing on TukuToi. Additionally usage of Third Party Resources in general, even CDN usage should be reconsidered.

Only by doing so, regular businesses can discourage this malpractice and become trailblazers for responsible service provision.

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