Browser add-on is a nod to privacy concerns, but Web site owners may fret about inaccurate reporting.
In a nod to mounting concerns about privacy, Google is now letting users of most Internet browsers opt out of being tracked by its Analytics tool.
"Even though Google Analytics doesn't reveal personal information, we believe in giving users more choice and control whenever possible," a company lawyer wrote on the Google blog. "This means the information from your visit will not be sent to Google Analytics or included in its reports."
The opt-out comes in the form of a browser add-on that prevents Google Analytics from tracking online behavior. The add-on is currently in beta mode and available for Internet Explorer, Firefox and Google's own browser, Chrome.
This is not the first tool Google has offered users to manage how much of their information is collected online. The company's Ads Preferences Manager allows users to add or subtract from the list of interests that Google associates with their computer, controlling what ads appear as they browse. Google also offers a plug-in that allows users to opt out of its DoubleClick advertising cookie.
While the move will likely score points with privacy advocates, the impact on publishers, many of whom depend on data from Analytics to optimize their sites' performance, will depend on how many people choose to install the plug-in. Because Analytics tracks Web surfers around the world, presumably millions of people would have to opt out in order to have any sizeable impact.
More than one commenter on Google's blog post about the change expressed concern that their site visitor data will become less reliable.
"I signed up because I want 100% of my visitors data available to me so I can make better decisions," wrote the person, posting under the name Frank. "Did you consider how this missing data might affect web sites or was this just for privacy?"
Douglas Quenqua is a journalist based in Brooklyn, NY who writes about culture and technology. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Wired, The New York Observer, and Fortune.
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