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Theme fund: NGI0 PET
Start: 2019-12
End: 2022-10
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Privacy-friendly web analytics for small websites

GoatCounter aims to provide meaningful privacy-friendly analytics for businesspurposes, while still staying usable for non-technical users to use onpersonal websites. The choices that currently exist are between hosted online services that have serious privacy issues, running your own complex software, or extremely simplistic "vanity statistics". GoatCounter attempts to strike a good balance between various interests. Major features include an easy to run self-hosted option, an intuitive user interface that is also accessible to website maintainers with accessibility needs, and meaningful statistics that go beyond "vanity stats" but still respect user privacy.

Why does this actually matter to end users?

As you fire up your computer, laptop or smartphone and click your browser icon to connect to your favorite site, do you know what happens behind the scenes? Many websites actually have dozens of different trackers, and some of these have such a global presence that they can form a pretty clear picture of ones online behaviour. Some argue that privacy is and has been dead for quite some time. As long as users have a quick internet connection and can access the web, email, games and messages without a hitch, they won't complain. But if you question people about the importance of online privacy, usually the answer is that it is indeed important and should be better protected. What is happening here? Perhaps we misunderstand carelessness with unfamiliarity. The technology behind most of our devices, our connection to the internet and the virtual spaces we inhabit is complex, yes, but the solutions we use to access them have also kept actual control away from us under the guise of 'intuitiveness' and 'pick up and play'. Playing here means playing by the rules of the developer, not by your own. What users instead should have are tools that give them actual access to what their devices do, what choices are made, and decide for themselves whether they agree with them or not.

Privacy isn't dead, we just lack the tools to actually protect it. This is true for both the user as for the website owner that wants to know who their visitors are. Web analytics software is usually invasive by default and give a website owner little control over what data is logged and who else gets to access it. This is not only unfriendly to your website visitors, it can also be bad for business when profiling data is leaked or misused by a third party and you are held responsible. Instead of giving away so much control over the website you own and the visitors you want to attract, why not do it yourself?

GoatCounter is an effort to develop simple web statistics technology that does not track users, is more accessible and easy to use than proprietary analytic services and at all times lets you own your analytical data. This is one of the tools we need to make an internet that revolves around its users: privacy-friendly by default, transparent and only owned by yourself.

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This project was funded through the NGI0 PET Fund, a fund established by NLnet with financial support from the European Commission's Next Generation Internet programme, under the aegis of DG Communications Networks, Content and Technology under grant agreement No 825310.