A Guide to Ethical Web Tracking in 2024

A Guide to Ethical Web Analytics in 2024


User data is more valuable and sought after than ever. 

Ninety-four percent of respondents in Cisco’s Data Privacy Benchmark Study said their customers wouldn’t buy from them if their data weren’t protected, with 95% saying privacy was a business imperative. 

Unfortunately, the data collection practices of most businesses are far from acceptable and often put their customers’ privacy at risk. 

But it doesn’t have to be this way. You can ethically collect valuable and insightful customer data—you just need the right tools.

In this article, we show you what an ethical web analytics solution can look like, why Google Analytics is a problem and how you can collect data without risking your customers’ privacy.

What is ethical web analytics?

Ethical web analytics put user privacy first. These platforms prioritise privacy and transparency by only collecting necessary data, avoiding implicit user identification and openly communicating data practices and tracking methods. 

Ethical tools adhere to data protection laws like GDPR as standard (meaning businesses using these tools never have to worry about fines or disruptions). In other words, ethical web analytics refrain from exploiting and profiting from user behaviour and data. 

Unfortunately, most traditional data solutions collect as much data as possible without users’ knowledge or consent.

Why does digital privacy matter?

Digital privacy matters because companies have repeatedly proven they will collect and use data for financial gain. It also presents security risks. Unsecured user data can lead to identity theft, cyberattacks and harassment. 

Big tech companies like Google and Meta are often to blame for all this. These companies collect millions of user data points — like age, gender, income, political beliefs and location. Worse still, they share this information with interested third parties.

After public outrage over data breaches and other privacy scandals, consumers are taking active steps to disallow tracking where possible. IAPP’s Privacy and Consumer Trust Report finds that 68% of consumers across 19 countries are somewhat or very concerned about their digital privacy. 

There’s no way around it: companies of all sizes and shapes need to consider how they handle and protect customers’ private information

Why should you use an ethical web analytics tool?

When companies use ethical web analytics tools they can build customer trust, boost their brand reputation, improve data security practices and future proof their website tracking solution. 

Boost brand reputation

The fallout from a data privacy scandal can be severe. 

Just look at what happened to Facebook during the Cambridge Analytica data scandal. The eponymous consulting firm harvested 50 million Facebook profiles and used that information to target people with political messages. Due to the instant public backlash, Facebook’s stock tanked, and use of the “delete Facebook” hashtag increased by 423% in the following days.

That’s because consumers care about data privacy, according to Deloitte’s Connected Consumer Study:

  • Almost 90 percent agree they should be able to view and delete data companies collect 
  • 77 percent want the government to introduce stricter regulations
  • Half feel the benefits they get from online services outweigh data privacy concerns.

If you can prove you buck the trend by collecting data using ethical methods, it can boost your brand’s reputation. 

Build trust with customers

At the same time, collecting data in an ethical way can help you build customer trust. You’ll go a long way to changing consumer perceptions, too. Almost half of consumers don’t like sharing data, and 57% believe companies sell their data.  

This additional trust should generate a positive ROI for your business. According to Cisco’s Data Privacy Benchmark Study, the average company gains $180 for every $100 they invest in privacy. 

Improve data security

According to IBM’s Cost of a Data Breach report, the average cost of a data breach is nearly $4.5 million. This kind of scenario becomes much less likely when you use an ethical tool that collects less data overall and anonymises the data you do collect. 

Futureproof your web analytics solution

The obvious risk of not complying with privacy regulations is a fine — which can be up to €20 million, or 4% of worldwide annual revenue in the case of GDPR.

It’s not just fines and penalties you risk if you fail to comply with privacy regulations like GDPR. For some companies, especially larger ones, the biggest risk of non-compliance with privacy regulations is the potential sudden need to abandon Google Analytics and switch to an ethical alternative.

If Data Protection Authorities ban Google Analytics again, as has happened in Austria, France, and other countries, businesses will be forced to drop everything and make an immediate transition to a compliant web analytics solution.

When an organisation’s entire marketing operation relies on data, migrating to a new solution can be incredibly painful and time-consuming. So, the sooner you switch to an ethical tool, the less of a headache the process will be. 

The problem with Google Analytics

Google Analytics (GA) is the most popular analytics platform in the world, but it’s a world away from being an ethical tool. Here’s why:

You don’t have data ownership

Google Analytics is attractive to businesses of all sizes because of its price. Everyone loves getting something for free, but there’s still a cost — your and your customers’ data.

That’s because Google combines the data you collect with information from the millions of other websites it tracks to inform its advertising efforts. It may also use your data to train large language models like Gemini. 

It has a rocky history with GDPR laws

Google and EU regulators haven’t always got along. For example, the German Data Protection Authority is investigating 200,000 pending cases against websites using GA. The platform has also been banned and added back to the EU-US Data Privacy Framework several times over the past few years. 

You can use GA to collect data about EU customers right now, but there’s no guarantee you’ll be able to do so in the future. 

It requires a specific setup to remain compliant

While you can currently use GA in a GDPR-compliant way — owing to its inclusion in the EU-US Data Privacy Framework — you have to set it up in a very specific way. That’s because the platform’s compliance depends on what data you collect, how you inform users and the level of consent you acquire.  You’ll still need to include an extensive privacy policy on your website. 

What does ethical web analytics look like?

An ethical web analytics solution should put user privacy first, ensure compliance with regulations like GDPR, give businesses 100% control of the data they collect and be completely transparent about data collection and storage practices. 

What does ethical web tracking look like?

100% data ownership

You don’t fully control customer data when you use Google Analytics. The search giant uses your data for its own advertising purposes and may also use it to train large language models like Gemini. 

When you choose an ethical web analytics alternative like Matomo, you can ensure you completely own your data.

Try Matomo for Free

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Respects user privacy

It’s possible to track and measure user behaviour without collecting personally identifiable information (PII). Just look at the ethical web analytics tools we’ve reviewed below. 

These platforms respect user privacy and conform to strict privacy regulations like GDPR, CCPA and HIPAA by incorporating some or all of the following features:

In Matomo’s case, it’s all of the above. Better still, you can check our privacy credentials yourself. Our software’s source code is open source on GitHub and accessible to anyone at any time. 

Compliant with government regulations

While Google’s history with data regulations is tumultuous, an ethical web analytics platform should follow even the strictest privacy laws, including GDPR, HIPAA, CCPA, LGPD and PECR.

But why stop there? Matomo has been approved by the French Data Protection Authority (CNIL) as one of the few web analytics tools that French sites can use to collect data without tracking consent. So you don’t need an annoying consent banner popping up on your website anymore. 

Try Matomo for Free

Get the web insights you need, without compromising data accuracy.

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Complete transparency 

Ethical web analytics tools will be upfront about their data collection practices, whether that’s in the U.S., EU, or on your own private servers. Look for a solution that refrains from collecting personally identifiable information, shows where data is stored, and lets you alter tracking methods to increase privacy even further. 

Some solutions, like Matomo, will increase transparency further by providing open source software. Anyone can find our source code on GitHub to see exactly how our platform tracks and stores user data. This means our code is regularly examined and reviewed by a community of developers, making it more secure, too.

Ethical web analytics solutions

There are several options for an ethical web analytics tool. We list three of the best providers below. 


Matomo is an open source web analytics tool and privacy-focused Google Analytics alternative used by over one million sites globally. 

Screenshot example of the Matomo dashboard

Matomo is fully compliant with prominent global privacy regulations like GDPR, CCPA and HIPAA, meaning you never have to worry about collecting consent when tracking user behaviour. 

The data you collect is completely accurate since Matomo doesn’t use data sampling and is 100% yours. We don’t share data with third parties but can prove it. Our product source code is publicly available on GitHub. As a community-led project, you can download and install it yourself for free. 

With Matomo, you get a full range of web analytics capabilities and behavioural analytics. That includes your standard metrics (think visitors, traffic sources, bounce rates, etc.), advanced features to analyse user behaviour like A/B Testing, Form Analytics, Heatmaps and Session Recordings.  

Migrating to Matomo is easy. You can even import historical Google Analytics data to generate meaningful insights immediately. 

Try Matomo for Free

Get the web insights you need, without compromising data accuracy.

No credit card required


Fathom Analytics is a lightweight privacy-focused analytics solution that launched in 2018. It aims to be an easy-to-use Google Analytics alternative that doesn’t compromise privacy. 

A screenshot of the Fathom website

Like Matomo, Fathom complies with all major privacy regulations, including GDPR and CCPA. It also provides 100% accurate, unsampled reports and doesn’t share your data with third parties. 

While Fathom provides fairly comprehensive analytics reports, it doesn’t have some of Matomo’s more advanced features. That includes e-commerce tracking, heatmaps, session recordings, and more.  


Plausible Analytics is another open source Google Analytics alternative that was built and hosted in the EU. 

A screenshot of the Plausible website

Launched in 2019, Plausible is a newer player in the privacy-focused analytics market. Still, its ultra-lightweight script makes it an attractive option for organisations that prioritise speed over everything else. 

Like Matomo and Fathom, Plausible is GDPR and CCPA-compliant by design. Nor is there any cap on the amount of data you collect or any debate over whether the data is accurate (Plausible doesn’t use data sampling) or who owns the data (you do).  

Matomo makes it easy to migrate to an ethical web analytics alternative

There’s no reason to put your users’ privacy at risk, especially when there are so many benefits to choosing an ethical tool. Whether you want to avoid fines, build trust with your customers, or simply know you’re doing the right thing, choosing a privacy-focused, ethical solution like Matomo is taking a massive step in the right direction. 

Making the switch is easy, too. Matomo is one of the few options that lets you import historical Google Analytics data, so starting from scratch is unnecessary. 

Get started today by trying Matomo for free for 21-days. No credit card required. 

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A powerful web analytics platform that gives you and your business 100% data ownership and user privacy protection.

No credit card required.

Free forever.