The Move to Google Analytics 4

All standard Universal Analytics properties will stop processing new hits on July 1st, 2023

You may rightfully wonder whether you should switch from Google Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4 given the recent judgment of some European regulators declaring that the use of Google Analytics is unlawful.

Google Analytics 4 vs. Google Analytics Universal 

Google Analytics 4 (GA4) has a fundamentally different interface and data model than Google Analytics Universal (UA). If you want to understand and analyze your data after the switch to GA4, you'll need to undergo a new learning curve and create new tag configurations. To urge you to make the changeover as soon as possible, a deadline of July 1st was set. We suggest you  swiftly set up parallel tracking between UA and GA4 so that you can quickly compile a data history for doing temporal comparisons starting on July 1.

Google Analytics & Data privacy

Despite the fact that GA4 was created with privacy in mind and has many more consent management tools than GUA, the tool does not provide the GDPR-compliant safeguards, especially when data is sent to the US (made impossible by the Cloud Act).

The decision by Google to completely shut down the access to your previously processed data is highly correlated with the multiple sanctions from the CNIL (French National Commission on Informatics and Liberty), the DSB (Austrian data protection authority), etc., since GA4 was designed with privacy at its core and offers many more consent management options than GUA. The CNIL has not yet certified GA4 as GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) compliant, though. The transition to GA4 will not bring you into compliance with the GDPR if you collect data from the European Market.

The Trans-Atlantic Data Privacy Framework 

However, in March 2022, the European Commission and the United States reached an agreement in principle for a Trans-Atlantic Data Privacy Framework. Even if, the technical details of the new framework are still unclear, we can expect data transfer to the USA to be legalized. 

Yet, according to the European Data Protection Board: “At this stage, this announcement does not constitute a legal framework on which data exporters can base their data transfers to the United States. Data exporters must therefore continue taking the actions required to comply with the case law of the Court of Justice of the European Union, and in particular its Schrems II decision of July 16th, 2020”. 

Additionally, Switzerland plans to enact a federal data privacy law in September 2023 that would essentially mirror GDPR, particularly in regards to the movement of data. This implies that GA4 will also be in violation of Swiss law.

Alternatives to Google Analytics

You may take advantage of the fact that the Trans-Atlantic Data Privacy is only an agreement in principle at this time and that switching to GA4 won't make you GDPR compliant. You could  move your web analytics infrastructure to a service that has been approved by the CNIL. There are many options, including Piwik PRO Analytics Suite, Matomo Analytics, and Adobe Analytics.

If you're searching for a straightforward business analytics platform that displays sessions, pageviews, transactions, and income, you might choose Piwik PRO and Matomo. However, if you're looking for a suite to help you perform better, you should choose a more comprehensive product like Adobe Analytics.

Is it possible to keep Google Analytics? 

The time allotted by Google to make the switch is also a fantastic opportunity for you to assess your web analytics architecture if you still choose to utilize Google Analytics as your main tracking tool. We advise you to switch from client-side to server-side tracking, which involves streamlining the data flow from the client-side to the greatest extent and moving the data transformation and logic from the browser side to a dedicated and owned tracking server, in order to:

  • Respect the privacy of the users 

Additionally, the updated Swiss Federal Data Protection Act will unquestionably affect your data.

You would be able to do real anonymization and obfuscation of data thanks to server-side tracking (we select the data that is provided and in the format we desire) and  therefore be GDPR compliant.

  • Improve the performance of your tracking 

Your website's growing tag count may affect how quickly pages load.

Since everything is transmitted to the server side by server-side tracking, the computational load on the browser side can be significantly reduced. You might even carry out a subsequent enrichment on the website using data from outside sources (such as CRM or PIM).

  • Be less dependent on your 3rd party data 

Adblocker and browser restrictions on third-party cookies make tags that rely on the cookies obsolete.

You can do first-party actions because the server is on the same 1st level domain, which enables you to defend against the ITP protocol and ad-blockers.

You can take full ownership and control of the data you gather and deliver to suppliers thanks to server-side tracking.

You can establish server-to-server interactions using server-side, which opens up more options including the use of the Facebook Conversion API.

The team behind this project

Florent Purificato - Digital Analytics Consultant

Would you be interested in getting in touch with our Analytics Team to support you in the implementation of these recommendations? Feel free to get in touch and we would be happy to talk to you about this in more detail. 

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