I find myself continuing to rethink the placement of analytics and social media sharing scripts on the sites I control. Over recent years, this behaviour has become almost automatic for me: create a site or web application, add Google Analytics scripts, add AddThis buttons to facilitate sharing on Twitter and other channels. But I’m realising more and more that we’ve somehow got into a situation where privacy-related decisions are often taken with far too little time for reflection, sometimes supported by the all-too-weak argument that everyone else is doing it. For some parties, I suspect we might have got into this position by design, but for others, it might be more a case of not having adequately thought about it, of not having fully considered what we might be giving up as well as gaining.
Some might think it would have been better to have kept things as they were until I’d spent more time reviewing the situation and getting alternative solutions in place. But I think it’s often best to set out in the approximate direction you realise you want to go, even without having the whole route planned. Otherwise, it’s far too easy to stay exactly where you are, and keep putting changes off until another time. For a client project, I might not necessarily advise the same approach; that would need careful consideration (and wouldn’t just be my decision, obviously). But really, in the bigger picture, my blog and open-source sites really aren’t that important—not enough to justify doing something I’m uncomfortable with. For the meanwhile, if that means I have less insight into visitors, I think I’m actually okay with that.
I’m not saying I won’t continue to use such analytics and social media sharing scripts in the future, even for sites I don’t have to compromise for, but that at least I would have given myself more time to consider the options carefully before doing so, and, hopefully, to find a solution which yields benefits without potentially contributing negatively to privacy. I’m not necessarily recommending that others follow suit; I think what’s most important here is to think carefully about these things rather than sleepwalk into them, and, if you have the opportunity, to err on the side of caution if your present self is not sure what to do.