Cookie Free Website Analytics

Cookie Free Website Analytics

Why do websites use analytics?

Most website owners are not interested in tracking people across the Internet or building behavioral profiles for politically motivated ads. They're interested in how many page views their website got the last few months and other important metrics.

That's why, for websites to understand which pages are relevant to their visitors, they use an analytics tool. These tools enable you to count total views, top countries, referrers, and some other important metrics.

This helps website owners get a view of the big picture, and create more of the articles, videos, and products that people are actually interested in. After all, you can’t improve what you can’t measure.

Additionally, these tools also help website owners understand when a page is loading too slow. That way they can identify what’s causing the issue and fix it.

Website analytics is what enables them to identify these issues and understand the big picture. Driving creation of new content, new features, and even bug fixes.

Unfortunately, several bad actors have abused their position over the years. That’s why it’s important to recognize that analytics tools are not the problem on their own, and just like cookies and similar technologies, what matters is how they are being used.

Are cookies really the problem?

Cookies are one of the ways that tools such as Google Analytics use to track visitors across the web. Over the years they got a bad reputation for being one of the ways which enable bad actors to extensively track people across the Internet, building profiles about their age group, buying preferences, where they live, and other personal data.

You might be wondering what is all that personal data used for? You guessed it, it fuels those ads targeting you when visiting various sites across the web.

But it doesn't end there, some companies might sell that data to third parties which may in turn target you with political ads, emails, or even build databases about what you do on the Internet.

Cookies are not the reason why this happens, but unfortunately, they are abused as a technique to aid in invasive tracking and personal data hoarding.

That's why privacy legislations such as GDPR may require websites to get user consent before making use of tracking cookies or similar technologies. However, it's important to clarify that just because a website uses cookies, doesn't mean that invasive tracking might happen.

There's also several good reasons why a website might need to use cookies or similar technologies (eg. to log you in, or to protect your account), but more on that later.

Can you use analytics without cookies?

You do not need tracking cookies for analytics to work. However, you may still need consent for tracking depending on the exact implementation, regulations that apply to you, and various other factors.

It might be tempting to believe that cookies are the problem, and blocking or disabling them is the solution. While it would be great if we could stop bad actors by blocking cookies, the truth is that there are many other ways in which invasive data hoarding can happen.

Please note that we're not lawyers, and we can't give legal advice. We encourage you to seek professional advice so you can get more relevant information for your circumstances.

What are cookies

Cookies are small text files stored on your browser to remember settings and other information on a specific website. While often they are used for tracking purposes, not all cookies are tracking cookies.

Cookies are also one of the ways for a website to remember that you're logged in, or that your language preference is English, or German as an example.

While they are many times indispensable, they have also been abused for tracking people across the internet, and building browsing history profiles across the web which are sometimes sold for advertising purposes.

How do cookies work

When a website sets a cookie, your browser will store it and "remember" to send it along with every request to that same website each time you access a new page. In case the cookie has expired, the browser may delete the cookie, and requesting a new one might be necessary (this is often what happens when you are "logged out" of a website after some time).

The data a cookie contains may include:

  • The name of the website that set the cookie.
  • The amount of time for which the cookie is valid.
  • The cookie value - this corresponds to the actual contents of the cookie (e.g. the logged-in user ID).

Cookies are an essential part of the modern web. They power many features which we take for granted. This includes things like remembering you're logged in to a website, or the items in your shopping cart on e-commerce sites.

However, with great power comes great responsibility, and we should take the necessary steps to prevent them from being abused and compromise the privacy of people on the internet.

What do cookies track

Cookies by themselves don't track anything. In fact, many cookies are used for things other than tracking. For example to remember which pages you logged in to, which website language you prefer, and so on.

When a website places a cookie on your browser, it instructs it to save a small text file for later. When you later again visit the website that placed this cookie, your browser will send that text file along with your request back to the website server. This in itself is not harmful, it's a necessary mechanism to power many useful website features.

How to remove tracking cookies

You can easily delete all cookies on your browser, either per website or across all websites, directly from the browser settings.

However, this may remove important, functional cookies too. This means you may get logged out of various sites, and some of your preferences on some websites might be lost.

How can I block cookies

While blocking cookies is a drastic alternative to stop invasive tracking, some browsers allow you to reject all cookies via the configuration options.

This is often not advisable, because most websites use cookies that are essential in one way or another to provide features such as keeping you logged in, saving your user preferences, and even things like remembering your shopping basket on online stores.

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