Privacy-aware web tracking and "small-tech"

April 18, 2023

I like programming, trying new technologies, solving problems and building tools. Sometimes, I discover new things, like now. Sometimes I find solutions for problem that I think people might benefit from. Sometimes I just built something that I think is pretty cool. When that happens, I have the urge to tell someone about it. Even if it is just my future self that asks itself: Why did I do that?

I started this blog to be able to get all those thoughts out of my mind and in writing. I started if because I hope that some people will benefit. And to be honest, also in the hope of getting some limited popularity and maybe the ability to make a little money from the things that I do in my free time anyway - in the very long run.

For that last part, it would be nice to know how many people are actually visiting your site.

This seems like and easy-to-solve problem. Just add Google-Analytics and you’re done.

GDPR and data greediness

I don’t want to use GA. Partly because I live in Germany and Europe has some very strict data-protection laws. Partly, because I was always in favor of those laws and don’t want to betray my own values. Partly, because I don’t want to be concerned with cookie-banners, legal notices and the fear of getting some of this wrong.

Instead, I have looked for other services like Matomo, “Piwik” and “etracker”. But all of them were either too pricey for a simple hobby project, or they were too complicated to set up in a non-cookie, privacy-aware way.

I even thought: Maybe I should implement it myself. But that would be another project, and I already have so many things I want to try.

This year, I started looking again and found Plausible]. I read their blog, I read their privacy notes, their About-page. And it convinced me.

The difference between Plausible and other trackers is, that privacy aware tracking is not only the default option for them. It is the only option. All the other trackers have a lot of configuration options, where you can decide how far you want to invade your users’ privacy.

With Plausible, you only ever get anonymous information I have made the dashboard for this blog publicly available at (Hint: Hardly traffic).

But what struck me was the kind of company that they are:

  • Small team, open source product
  • No external investors can interfere.
  • A business that is sustainable, but not greedy. On their About page they explain exactly, how they keep the data anynonmous and the company independent. When I read this I found a lot of points that I wouldn’t have thought about.

Independent, self-funded and sustainable by the subscription fees our users pay us

I started the trial period and the setup was done in one minute. Create a site, add the script to my blog. Done.

After that, I checked again, in a private tab that there are really no cookies, and no entries in localStorage. Nothing.

After a few days, I decided to skip the trial and pay my 9 Euros per mont (plus tax).

There are more companies like this.

On sign-up, Plausible uses hCaptcha to identify bots, which also has a privacy focus. I don’t know about investors though.

And when I looked a bit further, I found (EthicalAds)[] that is also a small company providing a privacy-aware ad-network.

In 2014, I was also pretty excited about who wanted to raise $30000 to implement their open source blogging platform. When they got ten times that mount on Kickstarter, they started a paid hosting service to fund their efforts. And they created it non-profit found so that they are not legally able to sell their company to investors, even if they wanted to. I don’t know how strict their focus on privacy is, though.


I feel relieved when I see that companies are founded by people who value privacy over profits. That there are ways to build sustainable companies without becoming dependent on venture capital, which in the end will violate your values for sure.

To me this shows that the world can become a better place and that not all people are greedy by default.

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Written by Nils Knappmeier who has been a full-time web-developer since 2006, programming since he was 10 years old.