Cloudflare announces free, privacy-focused website analytics

A free website analytics platform unveiled today by Cloudflare will offer services similar to Google and other analytics platform, but without tracking users.

"The big ad-supported platforms were hoovering off more and more data on what was going on online and it had sort of crossed the creepiness threshold level," Matthew Prince, chief executive of Cloudflare told SC Media. "At the same time, and it's related, you are getting this patchwork of regulations all around the world, which want to control ad platforms. But at the same time, they're really raising a hurdle for smaller organizations that want to exist online and know if their websites are being read, but don't care about ads."

Prince said Cloudflare's drop-in solution will not store or profit off user data in any way, instead earning the company profit through goodwill and the chance to advertise integration with the Cloudflare denial of service protection and edge computing networks.

Sites that use Cloudflare's other services would inadvertently get an added feature. While all platform users could configure the service to run similarly to other services, collecting reader data with a javascript plugin, it could also collect data through Cloudflare's content delivery system without adding any analytics code to their own site. It would be more lightweight, reduce the chance of programmer error, and prevent bots or ad-blocking services from loading the site without running the javascript, exempting them from the count.

Since Cloudflare is not storing reader data, Prince does not anticipate ad-blockers will block its javascript plugin. However, using Cloudflare's other services would remove that opportunity entirely.

The Cloudflare platform will not be able to reproduce all the data of analytics platforms with more pervasive tracking, which can compile user behavior across the internet for a complete profile of everyone who reaches the site, down to interests determined by the other sites they visit. Cloudflare will be more of a broad view, things like location or time on page.

"For sites that are interested in what content is resonating with readers, we make a great option," said Prince. "but answering questions about buying or selling ads - that's what Google analytics is designed for and will be great at. Doing that requires a lot of invasive tracking. We're promising never to be good at that."

Joe Uchill

Joe is a senior reporter at SC Weekly, focused on policy issues. He previously covered cybersecurity for Axios, The Hill and the Christian Science Monitor’s short-lived Passcode website.

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