Is Piwik government’s ‘open’ alternative to Google Analytics?

Piwik

I was recently tipped off to the open source web analytics software Piwik and wondered how viable an option it is for government as an alternative to Google Analytics.

Piwik has an impressive list of features and has been downloaded more than one million times. While it doesn’t appear to be heavily-adopted by the public sector within the United States, there are a number of international governments using the software.

Curious to learn more, I asked one of its creators, Matthieu Aubry, to address some of the security, privacy and scalability issues that might be of concern to those in the public sector interested in using it.

Why would government consider an open source analytics software like Piwik when Google Analytics (and others like it) are already free?

One of the principle advantages of Piwik is that you are in control. Unlike remote-hosted services (such as Google Analytics), you host Piwik on your own server and the data is tracked inside your MySQL database. Because Piwik is installed on your server, you enjoy full control over your data.

For many governement agencies (outside the United States), respecting the privacy of their citizens is a critical aspect, and it would be complicated to send their visitors data to Google for various reasons. When using Google Analytics, all traffic patterns are sent to Google, which can figure out a lot about these individuals from data mining across all websites in the world using Google Analytics (more than 60% of all websites). Laws like the Patriot Act in the United States makes it theoretically possible for the U.S. governement to get access to this valuable data without due process.

Piwik is a great alternative for governement to take back control of their data, respect their visitors’ privacy and keep costs manageable. If you are using Google Analytics and starting to use Piwik, you can import your Google Analytics data history into Piwik.

Is there commercial support available?

We provide Piwik premium support as well as consultancy services for Piwik setup, special configuration, management of your Piwik and implementation of custom features (part of our roadmap or not, included in core or custom plugins).

In 2012 we have seen an impressive increase in popularity about Piwik, and we have been lucky to work with many customers (startups, big enterprise, web agencies, advertising networks) to implement and tune Piwik for their needs.

Also, the community offers free support in our active Forums.

The product tracks visits, so can I set it up to comply with the government privacy rules?

Piwik is the leading web analytics software when it comes to respecting user privacy.

Privacy is “built-in” Piwik, with four main features that enable advanced privacy policies:

Step 1) Automatically Anonymize Visitor IPs
Step 2) Delete Old Visitors Logs
Step 3) Include a Web Analytics Opt-Out Feature on Your Site (Using an iFrame)
Step 4) Respect DoNotTrack preference

Can it scale to handle the kind of traffic a government agency would get?

If you have a few hundreds visits/page views per day, Piwik should work fine “out of the box.”

In the last year we have made major performance improvements. Piwik can now scale to millions of page views per month and/or to thousands of registered websites. At least two users even broke the one billion page view counter in Piwik.

Contact us for professional support and guidance about managing a high-traffic Piwik server.

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About Luke Fretwell

Luke Fretwell is the founder of GovFresh and a strategy consultant for CivicActions and NuCivic. He can be reached at luke@govfresh.com.

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