Goodbye Illegal Google Analytics, Hello Privacy-Focused Fathom Analytics

This month, I decided to finally switch from Google Analytics to Fathom Analytics instead of wasting time migrating to Google Analytics 4.

As of May 25th, 2018, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has come into effect across the European Union, setting new data protection and privacy standards and affecting companies worldwide, including Google.

Is Google Analytics Illegal?

Google Analytics on tablet

The Schrems II ruling was issued by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in July 2020, invalidating the EU-US Privacy Shield. This data transfer mechanism allowed companies to transfer data from the European Union to the United States.

Fun fact. The day before the Schrems II ruling, I applied for EU-US Privacy Shield for my business and paid the fees. When news broke, I was lucky to be within the refund window. It was a bit of back and forth, but in the end, I got a full refund for all the associated fees.

The Schrems II ruling has significant implications for companies that process personal data from the European Union, including those that use cloud services or data storage solutions provided by US-based companies.

The ruling means that these companies must carefully consider the legal basis for transferring personal data and ensure they comply with EU data protection standards, including obtaining explicit consent from individuals and offering them appropriate safeguards for their data.

The Schrems II ruling was just the beginning.

The Austrian Data Protection Authority (ADSB) was the first data protection authority to make using Google Analytics illegal under the GDPR.

The ADSB decision stated that Google Analytics violates the GDPR because it does not obtain adequate user consent or provide sufficient information about the data collection and processing practices. The ADSB found that Google Analytics collects unnecessary information about website visitors and does not allow users to opt out of tracking.

Furthermore, the ADSB found that Google does not have a legal basis for processing personal data for analytics purposes under the GDPR. The ADSB stated that Google could not rely on legitimate interest as a legal basis because the interests of website owners and Google are insufficient to outweigh website visitors’ fundamental rights and freedoms.

This decision by the ADSB adds another layer of complexity for companies that use Google Analytics to process data from the European Union. Companies must now comply with the GDPR and the Schrems II ruling and consider the DSB decision when reviewing their data collection practices.

Other regional data protection authorities followed ADSB:

  • February 2022: The French Data Protection Authority CNIL made Google Analytics illegal (source).
  • June 2022: The Italian Data Protection Authority Garante made Google Analytics illegal (source).
  • September 2022: The Danish Data Protection Authority Datatilsynet made Google Analytics illegal (source).
  • January 2023: The Finnish Deputy Data Protection Ombudsman made Google Analytics illegal (source).
  • March 2023: The Norwegian Data Protection Authority Datatilsynet made Google Analytics illegal (source).

Other data protection authorities will continue following this trend.

If you’re catering to an international audience, which includes European Union, it is in your best interest to stop using Google Analytics. It became too much of a legal hassle.

Compliance with GDPR (and all other privacy laws) is not easy. The majority of non-EU businesses without legal departments are not GDPR compliant. You may think adding a privacy policy and a cookie banner are enough to comply. It’s not. I plan to write about GDPR compliance a bit more soon. So subscribe if that’s something you’re interested in.

Is Google Analytics illegal? Yes, it is illegal in many countries that are part of the European Union. Since GDPR covers all members of the EU, it only stands to reason (err on the side of caution) Google Analytics is illegal in the EU and should not be used there at all.

If your visitors and customers are based in the US or other non-EU countries, you should be safe to use Google Analytics. But more and more countries (and US states) are adopting strict privacy laws, so stay up to date on local privacy regulations.

Fathom Analytics: A Google Analytics Alternative

Fathom Analytics demo screenshot

I loved using Google Analytics and was even certified. I still plan to use Google Analytics with clients who use it for their business. But I will begin recommending privacy-focused alternatives to Google Analytics in the future.

Businesses that can’t afford a legal team to be GDPR compliant are also not in a position to use all the data that Google Analytics collects. It’s bloated, invades privacy, and is not very user-friendly. This is especially true with Google Analytics 4, which is considered complex even by professional Google Analytics users.

Most startups and small businesses need simple analytics that is easy to understand so that the data can drive decision-making.

Fathom Analytics is the one I began using this month, and I will recommend it to my clients.

Here are a few reasons I chose to use Fathom Analytics:

  • It doesn’t track individual users but anonymized website visitors.
  • It doesn’t use cookies to track visitors, so you wouldn’t need a cookie banner if Fathom Analytics was the only thing you use.
  • It’s not an advertising company collecting and selling data. They charge a modest fee for their service.
  • It tracks all the key metrics every website should track, including the ability to track events.
  • You can track more visitors by avoiding adblockers with a custom domain. You can see it being used on this website with the sub-domain.
  • It tracks UTM parameters.

The only downside is if you need any advanced e-commerce analytics, Fathom Analytics doesn’t offer it. The only thing you can do at this time is to use an event triggered by a completed purchase and specify the amount.

For example, you could add the following code to your “thank you” or “completed” pages when the order is placed:

window.addEventListener('load', (event) => {
        fathom.trackGoal('YOUR-EVENT-ID', 1000);

1000 is $10.00, the order total.

If you use WordPress or ClassicPress, a Fathom Analytics plugin makes it easy to install the tracking code.

You can get 10% off your first invoice using my referral link to sign up for Fathom Analytics.

If you have questions, comment below or reply to the Mastodon post.


ChatGPT generated a few parts of this article about GDPR, Schrems II, and ADSP. What did you think? Did it feel AI generated?

Disclosure: The content on Inbound Method is reader-supported. The links you click might include affiliate and/or partner links that may generate a commission.
Viktor Nagornyy

Viktor Nagornyy

For the past 14 years, Viktor has worked with businesses of all sizes, helping them generate more leads and sales through an effective inbound marketing strategy and conversion-optimized websites while increasing marketing efficiency with marketing automation tools and tactics. Follow on Mastodon:

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