- According to the Italian Privacy Guarantor, the use of Google Analytics, and more generally the transfer of personal data to the United States, is in violation of European regulations and is prohibited
- il manifesto protects its users, and already since the beginning of the year we have chosen to use Matomo, an open source service, to protect our readers’ data as much as possible
- Supporting il manifesto, by subscribing or registering as a member, also means supporting the free and open web for all
Google Analytics can no longer be used on Italian websites. In a decision that represents a sea change for the global market for digital data, the Privacy Guarantor ruled on June 23 (here and here) that website operators in Italy will no longer be able to use the hugely popular traffic measurement system built by the California giant.
The reason is simple: the transfer of browsing data to the U.S. does not comply with European privacy rules, because our personal data collected by means of cookies (recording where we connect from, from what browser and device, what language we speak, etc.) is cross-referenced with the “gazillions” of data Google already has through millions of Android phones and dozens of other services available to everyone, such as Chrome, Google Search, AdSense, YouTube, Gmail, etc., and thus can easily profile us, in-depth and relentlessly, even if we are not aware and informed.
Worse yet: this is not just a business issue. The Privacy Guarantor highlighted, in particular, “the possibility for U.S. government authorities and intelligence agencies to access transferred personal data without due safeguards.”
The Guarantor writes: Executive Order 12333 and Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act involve “exemptions to data protection regulations that go beyond the restrictions that are deemed necessary in a democratic society.” More specifically, there are “provisions that allow U.S. public authorities, under certain national security programs, to have access without appropriate restrictions to the personal data subject to transfer, as well as the failure to provide rights that would be available to the data subjects and actionable in a judicial forum” (more info here).
The decision is a slap in the face to Google, a five-alarm fire in European-U.S. relations and a real technological headache for anyone running an Italian website, who will have to replace or change the traffic measurement solution on their site, putting at risk online advertising revenue as well, for those who use it.
The Italian Guarantor did not bring in anything fundamentally new (see here), because it simply took note of the European Court of Justice’s Schrems II ruling of July 16, 2020, and the recommendations of the European Data Protection Board (EDPB) approved in June 2021, which established beyond a reasonable doubt that there are no adequate safeguards for the transfer of European citizens’ data to the United States.
Hence the need for a blanket suspension and for more in-depth work on the matter.
Data represents the red blood cells of the Internet economy, carrying information and energy across the Web: those who have the most are making the most money. And those who have the most (apart from China) are a few U.S. conglomerates: Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple (in part).
At the top of the Web food chain are companies that, through their free services, are siphoning off and “consuming” all the data that moves online.
Like Pinocchio and the whale, we are all prisoners in the belly of these sinister beasts.
That’s not true for everyone, however. The il manifesto website, ilmanifesto.it, abandoned Google Analytics long ago, well before the Guarantor’s ruling. We knew the risks to our readers and decided to protect them regardless of the authorities’ assessments.
On our new site, we have deleted Google Analytics and installed an independent, open source traffic measurement system called Matomo, storing your data directly on our servers, without sharing it with anyone else.
In addition, Matomo is also the traffic analysis system of choice used by the Italian public administration – with its pluses and minuses (link here).
We wrote this in our “il manifesto manifesto” (here): “Less is more. Protecting your data, reducing it to the minimum necessary, not sharing it with others, is an obsession for us.”
In this pervasive, opaque, and voracious digital world, no half-measures or milquetoast solutions can survive: the only possible compromise with the path of the data market is “not to take that path at all.”
Therefore, our site has not hosted scheduled banner ads for over 10 years. Because these, in exchange for paltry revenue, profile readers and sell the data to whichever company is interested in paying for it. It’s a brutal trade in which there are very few winners and billions of losers.
Our site is open to all members, but it lives from subscriptions, not advertising. It survives if flesh-and-blood readers choose it – not private algorithms deciding who, what, how and how much.
This is a radical choice.
Over the years, we have also gradually eliminated less publicly known but equally pervasive platforms such as Disqus (the comments system on the old site) and Mailchimp (the system handling automatic “transactional” emails when you register, purchase a product, your subscription expires, etc.).
For both comments and all email functions – including our new newsletters – we have chosen open source technologies tailored to our needs and yours (and not others’).
For the same reasons, you won’t find here features that are very popular, and perhaps even very convenient for users, such as the Facebook, Google or Apple login options when you need to log in to the site, or the “widgets” (the share buttons) of the major social networks.
All of these services instantly transmit your information (which, let’s say it again, belongs to you alone and no one else) to the big platforms. This is why we chose Vimeo (a paid service) to host our videos and not YouTube (although leaving YouTube entirely is in fact impossible).
It is not mandatory to use these big services; nor is it a law of nature.
The Web has lived, lives and will live as long as it is free and open to all.
For us and our technology partners, the respect for privacy, minimization, pseudonymization and anonymization of data are key tenets. Our servers are all located in Italy or in the European Union (after Brexit, we have also removed those hosted in the U.K.).
Developing homebrew digital services as much as possible:
- is an advantage for you, reducing the extraction and exploitation of your digital identity by the large platforms;
- is an advantage for us, because it allows us to be able to personalize navigation without risking passing on information to those who take part in the data trade, aimed at control and tracking.
These choices are not mere technological quirks or engineering obsessions, but represent a political element of resistance to the real market of the present, which is primarily that of data and surveillance.
It is a difficult road, a never-ending process, but one that means we can show up in public with our conscience clear in order to ask for your trust.
In addition to the value of the news and analysis we publish, we think how we publish it is also very important: the choices that might be invisible, but are just as important to us as a scoop or a well-argued opinion piece.
If you support il manifesto by subscribing or registering as a member, that means you decide to be part of this project too: that of building, brick by brick, a freedom that is not only personal but for everyone.
Until July 31, there is a one-time deal available: 3 months of il manifesto for 39 euros (about 40 cents a day)