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Right now, if you visit an SE site the following things happen:

  • two cookies _ga and _gid are saved, those contain unique IDs used for Google Analytics
  • a request is made to www.google-analytics.com containing these unique IDs
  • a request is made to stats.g.doubleclick.net containing those IDs

All this happens before you even see the consent dialog. So all of this by design is performed without asking for consent from the users. SE is systematically tracking users and submitting that data to Google without asking for consent.

I asked for the legal rationale behind this 3 months ago, this request has not been answered so far. This time I'm not asking for explanations, I'm asking SE to simply stop tracking users without consent.

As SE can't answer the legal question in a reasonable amount of time, I think taking the legal aspects out of the discussion is necessary. Legal questions can only be answered by lawyers, and those seem to be the limiting factor right now. What I'm asking now doesn't need a lawyer.

Not tracking users is safe, it does not require consent nor does it require lawyers. SE can simply stop setting those cookies and making those requests before the user consents to non-essential cookies. Tracking less is always the legally safe choice. And if SE can't figure out a justification on why they are doing this kind of dubious tracking, maybe it's in their own interest to stop it until they can figure out if they're breaking the law right now.

So I'm not asking for any legal answer anymore, I just want SE to stop tracking users without consent. I think this is bad behaviour no matter what the legal details are, asking for consent before tracking users is the right thing to do.

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  • 1
    If users paid even a nominal fee for use of access your demand would carry greater weight but we don't, instead we get to visit and be a member of over 70 sites for free. I suspect these tracking cookies are part and parcel of the game and if SE does not remove them despite causing concern and distrust, what leverage do "we" the users have? Apr 9 at 3:15
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    The law @Mari-LouAСлаваУкраїні. It's illegal in the EU and UK to do what SO are doing without our explicit consent. Apr 9 at 3:16
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    The cookies are not illegal, just their usage without consent. @Mari-LouAСлаваУкраїні They are classified by the powers that be in the EU as "not strictly necessary", which is all that's allowed under the current user agreement. That is, SO is breaking their own user agreement by using these cookies without consent - that's the illegal aspect. Goes to: Breach of contract, breach of privacy, breach of duty of care etc.. Apr 9 at 3:24
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    @ARogueAnt. Interesting, I was ignorant of these facts. Thank you for taking the time to explain it to me. Apr 9 at 3:40
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    Nit pick: While "over 70" is certainly technically correct, stackexchange.com/sites currently lists 178 sites.
    – tripleee
    Apr 9 at 16:49
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    as nice as it would be for SE to respect its users' privacy, history has shown they're incapable of doing so. You not getting an answer is just another nail in the coffin. As much as I hate saying this, use an ad blocker, and recommend everyone else to get one as well. It's not acceptable for this to be the alternative, for the record, but it seems that SE doesn't care about privacy, and likely never will. Accepting that and equipping ad blocks is probably the only leverage we have Apr 9 at 17:33
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    ... or, of course, submit a complaint with a GDPR regulator or whatever the person in the EU that handles complaints is called, if you're ready to pull out the nuclear option (and know how). Apr 9 at 17:57
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    @Zoe and then what? After 10 years of negotiations, SE will pay $1M to the EU? Nuclear bomb maybe, but set on the back of a turtle. ;) Apr 10 at 7:55
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    @ZoestandswithUkraine I'm looking into the idea (speculatively, don't expect anything very soon). Apr 11 at 14:09
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    @ShadowWizardSaysNoMoreWar A 1 million dollar fine is still a gigantic kick in the ass that won't please the shareholders. If you want change, then some times, when all options are exhausted, a financial hit does wonders. If the goal is to cripple SE's economy (which it isn't, or at least that isn't my intent), sure, 1 million might be a drop in the ocean, though I personally don't know much about SE's finances. But if the goal is to pressure them to respect privacy laws, it's likely efficient. 10 years is a bit overkill, though; it's a lot faster than that, even if it takes a few months. Apr 11 at 14:16
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    @Zoe they were bought for billions of dollars, one million is less than a grain of sand. Apr 11 at 14:43
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    @ShadowWizardSaysNoMoreWar I'm not sure what you are trying to accomplish by insisting that a complaint won't work. It's the same sort of argument to say "your vote won't make a difference when there are millions of voters so don't bother". Sometimes we do things because they are the right thing to do, not because we have the power to unilaterally change the world. If no-one cares enough to file a complaint, the people with the power to fix the problem might not think it's a significant issue.
    – ColleenV
    Apr 11 at 14:57
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    @ShadowWizardSaysNoMoreWar Do you feel like that's constructive? Arguing with someone who is trying to do some good that their efforts are probably futile? It's not going to hurt anything and it's their time to waste. I am not trying to be mean or hyper-critical, but I think that it's really easy to propagate negativity when we're feeling a bit hopeless (even if it is for good reasons with everything going on today).
    – ColleenV
    Apr 12 at 16:06
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    @ColleenV constructive? Perhaps. The goal is to prevent disappointment. I learned this the hard way over the years, so just trying to prevent the (mental) pain and frustration from others. Of course many people already well aware of this and won't get disappointed when their efforts are in vain, but some might read what I say, lower expectations, and save themselves frustration by doing so. I never intended for anyone to not perform the actions and sorry if this is seen this way. Apr 13 at 6:56
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    @ShadowWizardSaysNoMoreWar A life lived attempting to avoid disappointment by lowering your expectations seems very sad to me. I wouldn't wish it on anyone. I'd rather be disappointed or seen as foolish than constantly feel like the things I do to try to make things better probably aren't going to have any effect. Everyone is different though, and having realistic expectations is a good thing too. I know you were well-intentioned. I wasn't sure if you knew how negative your comments seemed to the wild-eyed optimists among us ;)
    – ColleenV
    Apr 13 at 17:30

1 Answer 1

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+500

We are committing to recategorizing the Google Analytics cookie as a “Performance Cookie” by May 13, 2022.

(Update: This change was made on Tuesday, May 10th; we spent the remaining days monitoring it, and can confirm it is now working as expected under "Performance Cookie".)

While we’re recategorizing the Google Analytics cookie as soon as possible, the longer-term solution is to upgrade our Google Analytics platform to version 4, then enable Consent Mode, which automatically adjusts what it tracks to remain compliant based on users’ given consent on our cookie dialog. We don’t have a date for that change yet (it will be some time after May 13, 2022), which is why we’re moving the Google Analytics (version 3) cookie to Performance first and upgrading after.

For more background information, please read my other answer here.

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  • I've now copied over the update from the linked answer into this one as well.
    – V2Blast StaffMod
    May 19 at 16:26

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