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What Data Does Google Analytics Prohibit Collecting?

Paul Jarvis · Jan 30, 2023

In today's world, data is one of the most valuable resources around.

But collecting data is a delicate thing, and nowadays, user privacy has become more relevant than ever before.

We already know that our friends at Google are not saints - they are thrilled to collect as much user data as they can online. What Google knows about us might creep you out.

Now, it's time to ask us a really important question: what data does Google Analytics prohibit collecting? Will Google Analytics know its own data collection limits?

Let's see what the regulations say.

What Data Does Google Analytics Prohibit Collecting?

It is not a secret to anyone that Google Analytics is a powerful tool when it comes to collecting data from website traffic. Nonetheless, Google's service takes advantage of innocent users to gain, collect and access valuable data related to them.

Luckily, the "Google Creeper" keeps itself chained by data collection limitations imposed by federal authorities and regulators.

The main piece of data that Google is forbidden to collect from a person is Personally Identifiable Information, which is considered sensitive information.

In the same order of ideas, Google cannot collect financial information of groups or individuals, which includes billing information, credit card details, location, purchase amount, and more.

What Do Google Analytics Terms Say About Collecting Forbidden Data?

According to Google's terms, which you can check on the official Google website, it is mandatory to follow regulatory compliance, so that personal user information does not get collected through the online experience of individuals.

While Google tools track and collect data from specific users so web owners can use it in their marketing efforts, they are legally mandated to avoid data leakage of individual users.

Nevertheless, what Google considers Personally Identifiable Information can fall into a grey area - let us elaborate.

Personally Identifiable Information Examples

There are certain types of Personally Identifiable Information (PII) that Google Analytics prohibit from collecting, such as the following:

  1. Social security number.

  2. Full name of a particular person.

  3. Email address of a specific person.

  4. Race or ethnicity.

  5. ID or passport number.

  6. Driver's license number.

  7. Home address.

  8. Fine-grained location data, and more.

But PII processing does not work the same for all types of data. According to Google, they are able to collect IP Addresses, website usage data, device type, ad request through IP addresses, pseudonyms, and user IDs.

In a few words, we can say that PII includes all the data that could be used to identify individual users on a page, which falls into the category of sensitive personal data, such as social security numbers, addresses, financial information, and more.

What Happens if You Accidentally Collect Personally Identifiable Information from Your Website Visitors?

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) establishes the guidelines that Google Analytics must comply with when it comes to collecting user data.

A few months ago, the Austrian Data Protection Authority resolved that Google Analytics was continuously violating GDPR terms, which led to the usage of illegal analytics tools and procedures.

Therefore, if you collect Personally Identifiable Information from your users, even if you do so by accident, you are not only breaking Google's Terms of Service, but you are breaking the law as well.

Based on our experience, this can have two common possible outcomes:

  1. You might receive private claims for compensation from different users, which is totally legal and supported by GDPR Penalties conditions;

  2. Or you might get your Google Analytics account disabled, which means that you can say goodbye to your precious user analytics overnight.

Consequently, you must avoid sending Personally Identifiable Information (PII) to Google, but how do we do that?

How to Avoid Collecting PII in Google Analytics

In our opinion, one of the most frustrating things about Google Analytics is the fact that you must manually do most of the changes required within a messy and not-so-clear interface.

Yes, Google Analytics prohibits collecting PII, but the "fun part" of this is that you must personally avoid sending PII to Google Analytics, even if you do it by accident.

Luckily, there are five pieces of advice that Google "kindly" presents to us, so we avoid collecting PII on our websites:

  1. Make sure to block PII entered by users into boxes or forms before you send this info to Google Analytics.

  2. Comply with the Upload Data Use Policy before you use the Data Import feature.

  3. Make sure that page URLs and titles are free of PII at all times.

  4. Do not use fine-grain location information to track users within an area of less than 1 square mile. In the same order of ideas, do not send zip-code information to Analytics.

  5. Do not use User IDs without reading and interpreting the User IDs Guidelines first.

Why Is Managing Data On Google Analytics Such as Headache?

Because Google Analytics wishes you to inadvertently provide as much personal user data as possible in order to make more money.

Google Analytics is entirely free, but that's just because you are the product.

Otherwise, you wouldn't have to ask yourself, "what data does Google Analytics prohibit collecting?"

The tool should identify this data by itself and block it if it means that using such data goes against regulations, but that's not the case with Google Analytics.

The same individual and Personally Identifiable Information isn't collected by Fathom Analytics.

Google Analytics measures data in terms of money, while Fathom Analytics measures privacy in terms of value.

Fathom: The Best Google Analytics Alternative

A possible GDPR penalty can cost you up to $20 million - while Google Analytics is free, the consequences of breaking the law can be quite costly.

Fathom's customers receive all the benefits from Google Analytics (such as data aggregation, device information, etc.), which makes it the best safe-to-use Google Analytics Alternative out there.

Digital privacy is a two-way street - your website, business, or project must provide your visitors with transparency and trustworthiness when it comes to user-collected data.

At the end of the day, I guess that you get what you pay for - the cheapest option might end up being the most costly one!

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Paul Jarvis

Paul Jarvis, author + designer

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