Can We Use Web Analytics? Yes We Can!

January 24th, 2009 by Lars Johansson

Barack Obama and his people must have come to the conclusion that web analytics is not a hot potato. They used Google Analytics on his campaign site and the White House ( is using WebTrends’ hosted solution.

Some people have now cried wolf over the use of client-side/JavaScript data collection.

You can also follow the discussion that is going on.

This poses two questions:

1) Exactly why is log file analysis better (if you think it is)?
2) Exactly how can the White House use the data collected in a harmful way?

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Posted in Author Lars Johansson, From WebAnalysts.Info, Web Analytics | 6 Comments »


  1. Vita huset använder WebTrends | Webbanalys Says:

    [...] har, på min engelska blogg WebAnalysts.Info, skrivit om Vita husets bruk av [...]

  2. Daniel Tetreault Says:

    Could you briefly explain the difference between “client-side/JavaScript data collection” and Google Analytics?


    Daniel Tetreault.

  3. Lars Says:


    Google Analytics is using client-side data collection. JavaScript code captures what is going on in the user’s browser (pageviews, events, etc.) and sends that data to Google’s server.

    In fact, I’d say most solutions utilize client-side data collection. Other examples include Omniture SiteCatalyst, Microsoft adCenter Analytics, Yahoo! Web Analytics, WebTrends’ SDC solution, etc.

    Often, but not always, data collected this way is being stored on third-party servers, i.e. stored on servers belonging to the vendor and not to the client.

    The alternative, server-side data collection, used in server log file analysis, means that the data is not collected from the visitor’s browser. Data is typically stored on a server owned by the client. That server may, however, be rented and operated by a web host.

  4. Keemo Says:

    Log file are “better” in terms of the data being centralised with less people, i.e. only the website owner and ISP have access to it as opposed to the web analytics vendor as well.
    In terms of how it can be harmful: profiling maybe? This IP address is visiting these other types of “suspicious” sites, etc.

  5. Lars Says:

    Well, that’s a false sense of security. These types of laws are in effect in many places:

    What is the IP address in the hand of one vendor compared to your government potentially being able to map your ENTIRE behavior.

    Most companies don’t pass PII to SaaS vendors. An IP number means nothing unless you can merge it with data from an ISP (or if you can tie it to voluntarily passed PII as in the case with the search data AOL released years ago).

  6. Keemo Says:

    I suppose it depends on the configuration. If you tie the username DB to the analytics software, then you’ve got PII and behaviour data within your web analytics tool.