Browser add-on blocks Google Analytics

Google said it released the tool to give people more control over what data it collects

By , IDG News Service |  Internet, Google, Google Analytics

Google has released a Web browser add-on that will stop the browser from sending information to the Google Analytics service, which Web sites can use to collect data about their visitors.

Google said it developed the tool "to provide website visitors with more choice about how their data is collected."

Web site owners can incorporate Google's Analytics JavaScript code on their site to collect data such as when a person visited a Web site, if the person has been there before and the search terms a person used to find the Web site.

Analytics creates a cookie on a person's computer. Cookies are small data files used to record information about how a person interacts with a Web site.

Google's new tool, the Analytics Opt-out Browser Add-on, tells the Analytics JavaScript that information on the Web site visit should not be sent to Analytics.

There are other tools for Firefox users that can block Analytics. Adblock Plus and NoScript can both be set to prevent Google Analytics from receiving any information from the browser, while OptimizeGoogle blocks the Google Analytics cookie in addition to modifying other aspects of Google's behavior, including blocking Google advertisements and modifying the user ID cookie Google assigns to users of its search engine so that they can surf anonymously. Other cookie-management tools can also block the Google Analytics cookie, but won't stop Google Analytics from receiving more general information including the IP address of the Web user and the address of the page containing the Google Analytics tracking code.

Google Analytics collects the IP (Internet Protocol) addresses of Web site visitors but does not report the full address back to the site using Analytics. Google says that Web site operators can collect the IP addresses of visitors regardless of whether they use Analytics.

IP addresses can be used to identify a computer connected to the Internet and are regarded by some privacy advocates as personal information. While an IP address does not identify an individual user, it can be used by a service provider to identify a broadband subscriber.

Like all cookies, the cookie for Analytics is created automatically unless the user's browser is set to refuse it. Browsers can be set to refuse cookies globally, or add-ons can be used to manage a list of sites from which cookies are blocked.

The Analytics Opt-out add-on is compatible with Internet Explorer 7 and 8, Chrome version 4 and higher and Firefox version 3.5 and higher.

Send news tips and comments to jeremy_kirk@idg.com.

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