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Understanding GA4: Insights into data privacy and user consent

Isaline Muelhauser, SEO Consultant, began her talk by outlining the transition from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4 (GA4) and the confusion this has caused for some users. Her goal is to address the importance of understanding GA4 in the context of data privacy, with the aim of educating her audience and stimulating informed discussion on the topic.

Isaline went on to highlight the potential privacy risks associated with GA4’s advertising features. She illustrated this with an example where the Google Analytics tracker was inadvertently enabled before user consent was obtained and remained active after opt-out. She stressed the importance of website owners managing trackers properly to avoid legal issues.

Balancing SEO and paid advertising as privacy regulations tighten

Her talk also touched on the revised Swiss Federal Data Protection Act (revDSG), which strengthens individuals‘ data rights and is closely aligned with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). In this context, she raised concerns about data transfer practices where EU data is moved to US servers, noting the legal ambiguity surrounding these transfers.

The presentation concluded with a discussion of the challenges of digital marketing, particularly paid advertising and remarketing, which often require data sharing with third parties, profiling services or data brokers. Despite the benefits of focusing on Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) to reduce privacy concerns, the nature of digital marketing requires some level of engagement with paid advertising, which inherently involves data collection through platforms such as Google Ads.

She resumed that the use of advertising features reduces users‘ privacy. At the same time, data sharing practices increase the risk of breaching privacy laws.