Google had used the slogan “don’t be a criminal” to differentiate its company from its competitors. However, now more and more start-ups, aka startups that are pro to the protection of personal data, are flocking to use the slogan “don’t be Google”.
They quipped Google Analytics, a product used by more than half of websites worldwide to understand people’s behavior when surfing the internet.
“Google makes a lot of great tools for a lot of people,” said Marko Saric, a Danish now based in Belgium, who founded Plausible Analytics in Estonia in 2019.
“But over the years they have changed their approach without really thinking about what is right, what is wrong, what is evil, what is not.”
Saric and many others benefited from the GDPR policy, Europe’s personal data regulation that was introduced in 2018, to control who can access personal data.
Last week, France followed Austria’s lead by announcing that Google’s practice of transferring personal data from its servers in the European Union to its servers in the US is illegal under the GDPR, as Uncle Sam’s country does not have adequate protections.
Google disagrees. It said that the data transferred had been anonymized and the scenario imagined by Europe was purely hypothetical.
However, startup companies see an opportunity in a David vs. The Goliath.
“The week that Google Analytics was declared illegal by the Austrian DPA (personal data protection authority) was a good week for us,” said Paul Jarvis, who runs Fathom Analytics from his home on Vancouver Island, Canada.
He admitted that the number of new subscribers to his platform tripled that week, although he was not willing to give exact figures.
Google dominates the analytics market, where 57 percent of websites worldwide use its services, according to a survey by the W3Techs group. The best analytics tool focused on protecting personal data, Matomo, accounts for only one percent of the market.
The small players know they won’t be able to overthrow Google’s dominance, but they intend to inject a little justice and options into the market.
The most encouraging moment for pro-personal data software developers came in 2013, when former CIA contractor Edward Snowden exposed how US security agencies were involved in mass surveillance.
“We already know some of that information,” said Matomo founder Matthieu Aubry. “But when he showed up, we had evidence that we weren’t just being paranoid or making it up.”
Snowden showed how the US National Security Agency, aided by a secret court system, was able to collect personal data from users of websites, including Google, Facebook and Microsoft.
The disclosure by Snowden helped strengthen support across Europe to pass new regulations on the protection of personal data and inspire software developers to make the issue of personal data protection at the heart of their products.
One issue that startups are targeting at Google is the complexity of Google Analytics.
“There are 1,000 different dashboards and all this data, but it doesn’t help you if you don’t know how to use them,” said Michael Neuhauser, who launched Fair Analytics last month.
Jarvis, who has previously trained people on Google Analytics, described the device as “giant”.
And they use that as a major selling point on their website. [rd/rs]