Fathom Analytics is a privacy-focused service that tracks and records site visitors without recording or storing any personally identifiable data. They recently announced that they are now cookie-free.
The creators of Fathom, Jack Ellis and Paul Jarvis, stated that cookie-free tracking isn’t new, but the ability to also track unique visits is. The solution they chose to use was to keep multiple, unrelated complex hashes. They stated that the
hashes we generate are impossible for us to de-hash.
The hashes we generate are impossible for us to “de-hash”. It’s important to note that hashing is not the same as encryption. With encryption, you have the ability to decrypt, whereas hashing is one-way.
Pageviews are also processed and removed from our temporary table as soon as they’re considered to be finished (within 30 minutes or when the user has visited another page). In addition, we recycle our SHA256 salt string every day at midnight. This isn’t necessarily needed but it’s added complexity against future computing power & rainbow tables.
Additionally, they described how they avoid IP address association and how they match a user signature hash with an anonymous user’s pageviews. All of this was done to maintain anonymization and automatically be GDPR compliant.
The purpose of the hashes is to make sure that there is no realistic way for us to ever identify an individual from the data we track—this is paramount in Fathom Analytics being truly “privacy-focused” and what, frankly, makes us stand out in this space for website analytics. This is also important for GDPR compliance / being exempt from GDPR.
It’s important to point out that Fathom doesn’t have the same features you would expect from a service like Google Analytics. Part of this is because the software is relatively new, but the other reason is that it’s intentional. They are building it from the ground up to be privacy-focused, and unlike Google Analytics, they want it to be minimal and intuitive.
If you want to know the features they have planned for Fathom, they have a public roadmap available on Trello.
Full disclosure: Coywolf News and Coywolf Pro both use Fathom Analytics to respect the privacy of its visitors. That means you are currently enjoying a rare respite from being personally tracked by a site by just reading this article.