Privacy by Design: The Benefits of GA4

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July 1st, 2023 was the big day when Universal Analytics was officially replaced by GA4.

If you’ve made the switch, you’re probably already seeing the benefits that GA4 brings. This is the fourth version of Google Analytics, and it was developed in response to data privacy compliance laws, like GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) and CCPA (California Consumer Privacy Act).

So, it’s no surprise that the main benefit is… privacy!

“Google Analytics 4 is designed with privacy at its core to provide a better experience for both our customers and their users. It helps businesses meet evolving needs and user expectations, with more comprehensive and granular controls for data collection and usage.”

That’s from Google themselves, but let’s look at the features and benefits in more detail below…

4 important benefits of Google Analytics 4

1. Data storage duration

GA4 offers just two data storage options: you can either choose to retain data for two months or 14 months, depending on how you process your data.

We think that this is a useful way of ensuring that you don’t keep data for longer than necessary, but it will alarm some companies.

If you do need to keep your data for longer, don’t panic: you can always store data for an extended period using a data warehouse like BigQuery – which is now included for free.

2. IP anonymisation

Universal Analytics collected IP addresses by default. If you wanted to anonymise them, you had to activate that feature manually.

According to GDPR, IP addresses are considered online identifiers, so if you hadn’t activated that feature, you could find yourself in hot water. In GA4 though, the feature is activated by default and can’t be switched off.

3. Personally identifiable information

GA4 also prevents users from collecting personally identifiable information (PII). In fact, it’s considered a violation of Google’s Terms of Service to capture PII in GA4.

If you are found to be collecting PII, Google may delete all the data in your GA4 account.

4. Consent mode

This is a feature that allows you to modify the behaviour of Google tags on your site, depending on your users consent selections.

When launching a new GA4 implementation, you can configure your tags by using this mode, ensuring that your tracking responds to users consent preferences appropriately.

So, what else will it do?

Among other things, GA4 will also let you:

  • Track users across multiple devices and platforms – including mobile apps, web apps and websites
  • Predict user behaviour using AI insights
  • Share GA4 data with other Google products like Google Ads or Google Signal

So, although we might not have a choice in using GA4, at least it comes with some very real benefits.

If you haven’t yet made the switch…

Google gave businesses six months from the day GA4 overtook Universal Analytics to access historical data. However, after January 2024, all the historical data will be done, which means if you haven’t yet got around to exporting your old records, you need to do so – and fast!

If you’ve not made the change yet and it seems a bit scary or confusing, help is at hand.

Here at Wood for Trees, we can help you make the switch to GA4, save your historical data and tailor the functionality to your organisation. Alternatively, if you have started using GA4, but you’re not convinced you’re getting the most out of it yet, we can help with that too.

Want to find out more about GA4 and data privacy compliance? No problem – simply get in touch with us today for a quick chat about how we can help!