President Biden’s announcement last week (EU and US agree to new data-transfer pact to replace Privacy Shield (cnbc.com)) that there was an “agreement in principle” for a new US-EU data sharing arrangement shows how strategic data has become. It was announced at the same time as the US-EU deal on liquified natural gas, so many people may have missed it. If that wasn’t enough to indicate how significant the deal was, there are already conspiracy theories that the two deals were related – (“if you want heating next winter, you’ll agree to a new data sharing agreement”). Whilst this doesn’t stand up to scrutiny – as though whether Google Analytics has a long-term future in Europe is a primary concern of POTUS – it does show that data and data security do now sit at the top table of board, and government, discussion items.
However, for those that were hoping that this clarifies the situation for digital analytics, you may have to wait a while longer.
Firstly, there is no detail; it’s just an agreement in principle. There is no legal text to base any thinking on, and there is no timeframe for any legislation to follow up. And these still remain fairly fundamental differences to data security and data sharing; whilst the war in Ukraine might make western governments a lot more prepared to collaborate with each other, at least one of the parties will have to make a significant compromise on their current position to make this work. And this assumes that there are no legal challenges to this new, undefined legislation. Given Max Schrems initial post following the announcement, this seems very unlikely; the post is entitled “Lipstick on a Pig”! – “Privacy Shield 2.0”? – First Reaction by Max Schrems (noyb.eu)
So, in fact, this looks like it will increase the period of confusion in the digital analytics marketplace, not reduce it. Moreover, other industry news in the last few weeks have caused short-term uncertainty in their own right.
The week before, Google announced that it was sunsetting its Universal Analytics (UA) version of Google Analytics (GA), in favour of GA4. The real concern here is the timeframe – UA will no longer collect data from June 2023 – that is an incredibly short, and indicates Google are genuinely concerned over the legal challenges across Europe at the moment. There are suggestions that further announcements would follow, presumably addressing things like access controls that would help with the legal issues, but there is still no real clarity as to how this will be dealt with.
Equally, there is no denying GA4 isn’t really ready to replace UA and needs a lot of work. By bringing forward the cutover date, this not only causes significant disruption to GA’s own clients, it also arguably opens up wider opportunities in the marketplace for competitors.
The timeframe of summer 2023 means all businesses will have to plan a reimplementation in the next few months in order to not lose data next year. Pair this with GA not having yet provided clear details on how GA4 will address the legal issues that are challenging it across Europe, practically, this means that clients will have to consider wider options in the marketplace.
Despite several protestations from interested parties; from a procurement point of view, Google Analytics tools represent a risk at the moment, until such clarity is provided. Given the points above, it’s unclear when this might be.
There are also wider options in the marketplace. Whilst a few years ago, it was pretty much “Google Analytics versus Adobe Analytics”, that duopoly is under pressure. Other tools and methods, such as data collection tools like Snowplow, or product analytics tools like Amplitude, provide a breadth and differentiation that the industry hasn’t had for many years. So, it is also well worth companies looking outside their current box to consider what technology partners might work best for them.
So, in reality, Google’s recent announcements have triggered the biggest “RFP writing process” in the industry for many years. If you aren’t considering your options, then you are one of the few who have a clear strategy, but most companies will be looking at their tech options at the moment. If you want to chat any of these options through with an independent consultancy, please get in touch, and we would be very happy to assist.