The Germans have a long history of privacy matters, even outside of the Internet. They are especially keen on protecting their citizens from unwanted collection of data. That has lead to some strange situations, like for example people opting-out their houses from Streetview and then talking about that, with a picture in front of their houses, in the German newspapers.
One of the ‘targets’ of this privacy-sensitive policy has for a long time been Google Analytics. A few years ago it even looked like the Hamburg Data Protection Officer was going to get Analytics declared illegal in Germany. The Data Protection Officer has been working with several commissions and webmasters, as well as Google, to come to a solution. They have now declared officially that Google Analytics can be used in Germany without complaint from the German data protection authorities.
The German data protection authorities has put up some guidelines for German website operators to be following. A few simple rules should ensure that the requirements of the German data protection authorities are met:
– Website operators should implement the IP mask function, which tells Google Analytics to not save the full IP address of the users or to process them.
– Website operators should instruct in their privacy policies on the possibility of disabling the feature via a Google Analytics Browser Add-on. End users can, if desired, prevent sending data to Google very easy by installing this specific browser add-on.
The German data protection published updated terms of agreement (pdf in German) which include the data protection authorities coordinated arrangements for data processing.
John Caspar, the Commissioner for Data Protection in Hamburg and Freedom of Information is happy with the result:
“We are at the end of a long but constructive consultation process. The intensive cooperation between data protection supervisory authorities on the one hand, and Google on the other hand have made the necessary improvements. I welcome the announcement from Google that technical changes will be implemented throughout Europe. However, I would also remind you that the work is not completed. In particular, it should be noted that not Google, but the website owners who use the product, are responsible for the privacy-friendly use.”
With this ‘agreement’ it seems like a long battle has come to an end. But to be really honest, with the German data protection officers, you just never know. Chances are though they will now be focussing on Facebook