“Le Monde disconnected Google Analytics this summer”

The Cnil now considers the use of Google Analytics to be illegal, Le Groupe Le Monde has decided to part with it, helped by its use of AT Internet and first party data collection, explains Sacha Morard, group CTO.

JDN. You have decided to no longer use Google Analytics (GA) following the CNIL’s decision to consider its use non-compliant with the GDPR. How did it go ?

Sacha Morard is the CTO of Le Monde Group. © Eleanor Groux

Sasha Morard. As soon as the Cnil began to agree with other European Cnil on the fact of considering the use of GA illegal, we tried to understand the reasons. We did not know if the decision concerned precisely the use that the publishers put on notice made of it or if it was the tool that was called into question for the whole of the market. We then asked for and obtained clarifications from the Cnil just before the summer. This exchange was decisive for us. Barely a few days later, the Cnil published its clarification, which was final. We then decided to part ways with GA. We did this calmly because we take the protection of our readers’ personal data very seriously.

So we were in June. What did that involve?

Disconnecting an analytics tool is not easy to do. Fortunately, for the audience studies of the whole group, we did not use GA, but AT Internet, a French solution recently acquired by Piano. We had been using AT Internet for many years, one of the first tools to be certified OJD by the ACPM. The GA shutdown took a few weeks and was quietly organized over the summer. In addition, Groupe Le Monde has been investing in 1st party data collection for several years. This allows us to be more sovereign over the data collected and the use we make of it. If, however, one day we had to do without any other tool equivalent to a GA, we would always have this safety cushion which is first party data collection. This is the meaning of the story.

“It’s not just AT Internet that would put us in trouble if it were ever banned”

Piano is an American company. The fact that GA is the software of an American company was at the heart of the CNIL’s decision. Aren’t you worried that the same thing will happen with Piano?

I am not speculating on what the Cnil will authorize or prohibit. I will always respect their decision. Certainly AT Internet, a solution certified by the Cnil as consentless, is no longer a French company. But it’s not just AT Internet that would put us in trouble if it ever were to be banned. We can also think of Apple, Android, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud or AWS and I can give you thousands of other examples. Despite everything, I dare to hope that by the time the Cnil has to decide on AT Internet or on any other American tool, the European and American authorities will have defined a legal mechanism to regulate the transfer of data between the two regions. Europe and the United States are already negotiating it. It is difficult for us, digital publishers, to navigate between these different turf wars. We must guarantee users that their data is processed and stored in accordance with their consent. For that, we need a legal framework. I have confidence in the work that the Cnil and Europe are doing in this direction. I think we are on the right track and that we will have news by the end of the year or the beginning of next year that will reassure us all.

“I think that by the end of the year or the beginning of next year we will have news that will reassure us all”

If AT Internet was already doing the heavy lifting, what use was GA to you?

GA was used to analyze the performance of our own advertising campaigns to promote World content on the various platforms (search, social, etc.). It was therefore not a critical use. Today we rely on the data provided to us directly by these different platforms. Many publishers use GA to connect it to activation tools in particular. This was not our case because we wanted to develop our own proprietary 1st party data collection tool. In the near future, our 1st party data will also allow us to cross-understand the attribution of our campaigns.

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