Steam is ditching a Google tool that Valve says 'doesn't align' with its customer privacy approach

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This article has been updated with comment from Google.

Valve is updating the system that shows game developers statistics about who's visiting their Steam pages. As part of that update, Steam will stop supporting Google Analytics—the most-used tool for tracking internet traffic—and developers who rely on it will instead have to use Steam's built-in traffic reporting tools.

"As time has gone on we've come to realize that Google's tracking solutions don't align well with our approach to customer privacy," Valve said in a blog post. Steam's support for Google Analytics will end on July 1, which is also when Google is switching off an old system, called Universal Analytics, as it migrates all users to a new service called Google Analytics 4.

Valve didn't say specifically what about Google Analytics doesn't "align" with its privacy approach, or whether the switch to Google Analytics 4 is the motivating factor or just a good moment to make the split. Reached for comment, a Google spokesperson told PC Gamer that "privacy is paramount" in Google Analytics 4. 

"People's expectations for privacy have changed and, as a result, so has the way we measure," Google wrote. "Built with privacy at its core, Google Analytics 4 has even more data privacy controls, and any data in Google Analytics is obfuscated and aggregated in a way that prevents it from being used to identify an individual."

Instead of supporting Google Analytics 4, Valve says it's focused on improving its own Steam traffic reporting tools. For example, it's introducing a regional breakdown that displays the geographical sources of Steam page traffic, which "can be most useful when considering the languages you might support in your game or where you might need to locate servers for a multiplayer game." That's something Google Analytics would've been able to do previously.

Valve says it will continue not to track demographic details like "age, gender, or race," and mentions that although it's expanding its presentation external traffic sources—which websites are sending users to a game's Steam page—it makes trade-offs for user privacy, such as categorizing low-volume traffic sources as "other" to avoid inadvertently communicating identifying information.

"All the tools and features that we discuss here are built with player privacy in mind; Steam will continue to not share personally identifiable information," Valve wrote. "This approach to privacy means that some trade-offs have been made along the way that limits how specific some reporting can be."

Valve's privacy policy hasn't changed (you can read it here), so ditching Google Analytics is an apparent effort to put itself in better compliance with its own rules, although its promise to obfuscate data isn't on the surface different from Google's promise to obfuscate data. I've asked Valve if it can explain in more detail what about Google Analytics 4 doesn't align with its policies.

Tyler Wilde
Executive Editor

Tyler grew up in Silicon Valley during the '80s and '90s, playing games like Zork and Arkanoid on early PCs. He was later captivated by Myst, SimCity, Civilization, Command & Conquer, all the shooters they call "boomer shooters" now, and PS1 classic Bushido Blade (that's right: he had Bleem!). Tyler joined PC Gamer in 2011, and today he's focused on the site's news coverage. His hobbies include amateur boxing and adding to his 1,200-plus hours in Rocket League.