How TraceDock gives websites 100% data while respecting the privacy of ad-blocker users

Quite often we receive the question if we are allowed, both legally as ethically, to measure website usage from users’ with ad-blockers or a Firefox browser. As such, we decided to write a blog on this topic.

In this blog we describe why people use ad-blockers and how TraceDock can help you as a marketeer to improve your analytics data whilst keeping the privacy of your users’ in mind. 

Protect privacy with ad-blockers

First things first.

Ad-blockers are small pieces of software that work within your browser to prevent advertisements or third-party trackers from loading on a web page. If you are using Chrome or Safari you need to install a plugin such as Ghostery. Mozilla has integrated this feature into the Firefox browser by default. 

Now you might think, what has blocking ads to do with privacy?
Latest research shows that 26% of ad-blocker and Firefox users install it protect their privacy. 

Firefox overview that shows how many trackers are tracked per day, for one single user

And to be frank, this is understandable. An example: Firefox shows in the image above how many third-party trackers track a person per day. Trackers that the Firefox browser blocked for the browser user.

The downside of ad-blockers for marketeers

We see websites missing 10-30% of their data, mainly due to users that have installed ad-blockers. 

How is this possible? This is because ad-blockers also treat plug-ins like Google Analytics as a 3rd party tracker and/or advertiser. In such way valuable user behavior data is blocked from reaching Google Analytics.

As digital analysts, we can say: that makes your work much more difficult. Personally, we had the same problem in other projects, and that is the reason we started TraceDock. 

A few things that are made more difficult with ad-blockers and Firefox:

  • Knowing which marketing campaigns led to which revenue, a.k.a. marketing attribution
  • Optimizing your marketing budget efficiently across channels
  • Analyzing which keywords lead to most of your revenue, a.k.a. your SEA strategy
  • Improving the conversion ratio of your website based on customer journeys and click-through rates
  • Optimize your product portfolio or test out product recommendation strategies

TraceDock solves these downsides for marketeers whilst respecting the privacy of ad blocker users. We will explain this by answering the next questions.

Is it legally allowed to measure website usage from users with ad-blockers?


TraceDock fully anonymizes all data that is sent to Google Analytics. In this way our clients see the big picture, but cannot re-target single users. All downsides that we mention here above are solved, without intruding people’s privacy. 

A more technical read about this: GDPR and CCPA concern Personal Identifiable Information, PII in short. For website analytics, this is predominantly the IP address. By default, TraceDock anonymizes the IP using the GA anon-IP feature (check these Google Analytics docs). This feature removes the last octet of the IP address, thus removing any PII from your analytics (note: also ensure no PII get’s passed along in your URLs and event labels, but we assume you take care of that yourself).

Is it ethically okay to measure website usage from users with ad-blockers?


As long as you respect the reason why people use Firefox or install ad-blockers. That is because they do not want to be tracked across the internet and have their user profile’s sold to advertisers for (re-targeting) ads.
With TraceDock we respect that. Each website that uses TraceDock can analyze their user, but Google/Facebook cannot combine the activity of multiple websites into the same user. This is visualized as followed:

The privacy measures that are incorporated in TraceDock by design is to create a unique user per website, without the possibility for connection between the profiles by Google.

To conclude

With this blog, we hope to have given you an insight into how we have set up TraceDock to be a privacy friendly tool to analyze your users with ad-blockers. 

The growing popularity of ad-blockers, ETP in Firefox and ITP in Safari has only increased the importance to improve your analytics data whilst keeping the privacy of your users’ in mind. We hope to inspire you to critically analyze the shortfalls in your setup and come with a suitable solution.

If you are interested, have more questions or want to see how TraceDock works, contact us and we can schedule in a 30-min demo.

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