Beyond World Wide Privacy Regulations

Google Consent Mode Explained


Google Consent Mode is an API that adapts the functioning of Google products to the cookie choices made by users of a website. 

This allows you to continue to measure conversions on a website while respecting users' consents for advertising cookies or analytics cookies. 

Does this mean that you can still measure conversions without your tags violating the consents given by your users?

Yes, but these alternative measurement methods it offers still collect data from users despite having refused or declined their consent, so they are not GDPR compliant. For this reason you have to make sure, you're working with a really GDPR Compliant Web Analytics.

Break... What is an API?

An API, "Application Programming Interface'', is a set of commands, subroutines, procedures and functions that allow programmers to develop specific programmes for certain systems.

In other words, a set of codes and specifications for applications to communicate with other applications. In short, it is a communication system between applications. 

What are APIs for?

For example, they allow us to share a blog post on your favourite social network. Without APIs, this action would not be possible.

Okay, and what are conversions?

In digital marketing, we call "conversion" each of the actions that the user performs and that are in line with our objectives. For example, we are interested in the user registering for a webinar, subscribing, buying, etc.

Sometimes we associate "conversion" with sales, but there are many previous actions of the user that we should also measure and take into account as they are valuable for our analytical work. Therefore, in order to properly assess digital conversions, we must be clear about the objectives and the user journey. 

At this point, what actions would be "conversions"?

  • The action of the user entering the website, downloading, filling in a form and/or leaving their email address.
  • The user receives an email about a product and the action of clicking on it.
  • And the action in which the user purchases the product in question. 

Of course, this example is very simple and straightforward. The usual thing is that the user is delayed in making a decision for various reasons, for example that they are evaluating different websites, making comparisons between products of the same type, leaving it for later because they are comparing prices or just looking for information to anticipate any decision, etc. In short, they can perform multiple actions. And that's what we need API tools like this one for. 

Great, now that we have also introduced the point towards conversions that we can develop in another much more complete post, we continue with Google Consent Mode.

According to Google, and I quote:

Consent mode allows you to adjust how your Google tags behave based on the consent status of your users and enables Google to model for gaps in conversions. You can indicate whether consent has been granted for analytics and ads cookies. Google's tags will dynamically adapt, only utilizing cookies for the specified purposes when consent has been given by the user. Using consent signals, we apply conversion modeling to recover lost conversions due to consent changes.” Source: https://support.google.com/google-ads/answer/10000067?hl=en

What does this mean?

That this consent mode allows campaigns to be optimised to meet business objectives while respecting visitors' privacy preferences. 

Okay, that's what Google says, but where is what we are interested in, what we need to take into account?

Well, when visitors refuse consent, the tags send signals (or pings) to Google instead of storing cookies. This might seem correct to us as it does not store cookie information, but if we look at it, it is tracking our conversions. Which in the end comes to the same thing, tracking our movements but from another angle for the same purposes, to fill us with third party advertising.

If we look at the following reading, rescued from the google blog, about how consent mode data is used: 

“Let’s say someone visits your website and makes their consent selection for the use of ads cookies on your cookie consent banner. With Consent Mode, your Google tags will be able to determine whether or not permission has been given for your site to use cookies for advertising purposes for that user. If a user consents, conversion measurement reporting continues normally. If a user does not consent, the relevant Google tags will adjust accordingly and not use ads cookies, instead measuring conversions at a more aggregate level.” Source: https://blog.google/products/marketingplatform/360/measure-conversions-while-respecting-user-consent-choices/

Here we find the statement that they are still handling the data. This is further developed in the following article: https://brianclifton.com/blog/2022/03/14/google-consent-mode-breaks-privacy-laws/

It gives us arguments about the irony in Google's manoeuvres to collect data even when a user has explicitly stated NO in consent mode. A surprising thing, he says, if we consult the official documentation. (Consent Mode on websites and mobile apps - Analytics Help). Acting on their particular logic to collect "anonymised" data from non-consenting users to model the impact of non-consent.

Taking a last look at the latter, although there is the possibility of rejecting cookies, there is also data capture, which brings us to the same point we mentioned before, copying and pasting the paragraph we referred to "Which in the end comes to the same thing, tracking our movements but from another angle for the same purposes, to fill us with third party advertising." 


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