The Data Protection Bureau in Norway seems to have concluded that the use of Google Analytics on a website in Norway could very well be illegal. It says it is ‘not in accordance with Norwegian law’.
The ruling is based on the fact that it is unclear how IP addresses are being treated within Google Analytics. The Norwegian authorities believe that when a business starts using Google Analytics and accepts the terms of agreement they are at that point giving Google access to personal data of website visitors.
Bjørn Erik Thon of the Data Inspectorate “Datatilsynet” claims the data used in Analytics might also be used for personalised search. If a user is logged into Google search is personalised (even without being logged in that is the case) and the data collected through Google Analytics is supposedly used for that. That would make it in violation with the Personal Data Act in Norway.
Thon of the Data Inspectorate claims the data used in Analytics might also be used for personalised search
There is no proof of this actually happening, but for the Norwegians it is reasons enough to ask specific government agencies over which they are ruling to anonymise data collected so that the data is only used for statistical purposes. Agencies should also provide the Data Inspectorate with accurate information on what they are collecting and what they are anonymising. They want the agencies to act before September 10th.
One of the government agencies involved, the Department of Revenue, feels the use of Google Analytics is perfectly harmless. They hope the Inspectorate will talk to Google to get more detailed answers on how it all really works. They say they keep a close eye on privacy matters and have looked into Google Analytics closely and came to the conclusion it was the best choice to make.
Germany and Sweden
A similar issue arose in Germany a few years ago. There the the Hamburg Data Protection Officer was trying to ban Google Analytics based on similar grounds as are now discussed in Norway. About ten months ago Google reached an agreement with the German authorities, setting up guidelines and an updated terms of agreement.
In Sweden Google as well reached an agreement with the government in the Swedish Data Protection Authority. Wordlwide probably over half the sites are using Google Analytics.
The decision off course is also related with the EU legislation around cookies, which in many countries is still not working properly. Google Analytics has always been a big part of the discussion around that. Read more about the cookie legislation in pure ultimate cookie legislation guide here.
Looking at the history in other countries it is not clear if Google Analytics is really going to get banned in Norway. It could very well end with an agreement somewhere. It however is another indication that governments still haven’t got a grip on how to handle the web and privacy.Posted in News, Privacy | Tags: Google, Google Analytics, Norway, Privacy