The effect of GDPR on Google Analytics (GA)

16 February 2022

GDPR is widely regarded as one of the most significant data-protection reforms in the last two decades.


Without the explicit consent of the user, no sensitive personal data can be processed. It has imposed certain stringent data management protocols, openness, documentation, and user permission requirements. Pre-checked boxes or no action at all cannot be considered consent because the user’s explicit consent is necessary.

If you’ve enabled Advertising capabilities in Google Analytics, you’ll need the EU citizen’s permission first. Google defines ‘Advertising features’ as:

  • Remarketing with Google Analytics.
  • Impression Reporting for the Google Display Network.
  • Demographics and Interest Reporting in Google Analytics
  • Integrated services that need the use of Google Analytics to collect data for advertising purposes, such as the use of advertising cookies and IDs.

Google’s EU User Consent Policy has also been changed to match the new GDPR regulations. According to Google, any website that uses Google products must:

  • Obtain valid consent to use cookies or other local storage.
  • Keep a record of your consent.
  • Provide users with clear instructions on how to revoke their consent.
  • Notify users of who may collect, receive, or use data collected from your Google products.
  • Google states that websites that do not comply with these standards may be banned or discontinued from their use

The impact of GDPR consent on Google Analytics (GA) is demonstrated by website traffic going down significantly one day, then show as perfectly healthy the next. Drops in statistics have been expected by publishers and industry professionals but figures as high as 30-40% have surprised many. The reason for this is, depending on how Google Analytics is set up, the last page someone was on could be counted as a 0 even if they read the article.

We still talk about unique users, but publishers noticed numbers inexplicably soar upwards and stay there a few years ago. This was caused by GDPR rules going into force, with users declining to accept tracking cookies, resulting in one person becoming multiple users overnight. GA no longer refers to them as “unique users.”

Google analytics can still serve as a dashboard to monitor growth and give insight on web related data but may not remain as the trustworthy source of accurate statistics it once was. A key fact to take away from this is that the missing figures mentioned above are not lost, but may not reflect in google analytics, therefore monitoring traffic may be hindered, but the traffic itself is still present.

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