Tracking web traffic with tools like Analytics is not unusual, of course; we do it ourselves here at Business Insider. However, it struck us as fairly hypocritical, since Consumer Watchdog has complained about just this sort of tracking, and considers Google in particular a very bad actor on privacy.
Over the weekend, we heard back from Consumer Watchdog President Jamie Court, who sent us the following statement:
The company that hosts our server and backend, Grassroots Enterprises, apparently pre-installs Google Analytics as part of a template on any page they host. We cannot control this, nor do we benfit from the display of data in “useful charts and tables.” We are doing everything in our control to leave as soon as possible, and other controllable sites don’t use GA. The choice of Piwik for Oilwatchdog.org and Insidegoogle.com was because we had a choice. By Thanksgiving Consumerwatchdog.org will have made a similar choie… As I said if we owned the site and not just the text in it I might see it differently, but we don’t and we are doing everything we can to change that.
We don’t find this particularly compelling: Consumer Watchdog owns its domain, and is responsible for its website, regardless of who hosts it. If Google Analytics were truly sinister, the group would presumably have a responsibility to take the site down immediately. And while switching to Piwik does keep the data out of Google’s hands, it still means that users are being monitored without explicit consent in exactly the same manner (not that we think there is anything wrong with this.)