In a move that could harm its country’s own businesses, Germany is targeting Google on privacy issues again — this time over Google Analytics.
German privacy officials are concerned that Google Analytics tracks web users’ IP addresses, and that could violate an individual’s privacy. According to German news site The Local, Johannes Caspar, data protection commissioner in Hamburg, told a German newspaper that tracking IP addresses of web users should be illegal. Since it’s not, German officials are threatening to levy a “steep fine” against German companies that continue to use Google Analytics.
(The previous paragraph has been edited, based on reader corrections, to reflect that Caspar is not the German data protection commissioner, but holds that role in the federal state of Hamburg.)
Caspar says he’s been talking to Google about this issue since November 2009, and tells the paper that those talks have now broken off. A Google spokesperson told the German paper that it wasn’t aware the talks had ended. In a statement to the Wall Street Journal, Google says Analytics isn’t breaking any laws:
Google Analytics complies with European data protection laws and is used by other European data protection authorities on their own websites.
Last May, Google issued a browser plugin that lets users opt-out of Google Analytics tracking. But Caspar told the German paper that the plugin isn’t adequate because it doesn’t work for Safari and Opera browser users.
“Some 10 percent of German internet users are left out of the opt-out option,” Caspar said.
This isn’t the first time German officials have fought Google on privacy issues. They’re still investigating Google’s collection of personal data over WiFi networks (see our Google Maps Privacy: The Street View & Wifi Scorecard), and forced Google to let residents opt-out of Street View before that service launched in Germany.
(Thanks to Greg Sterling for assistance.)