At one point in time US President John F. Kennedy triumphantly declared “Ich bin ein Berliner!” in a speech to the German people. Now the debate rages on as to whether the president proclaimed he was a Berlin citizen or a donut but that’s for another blog. Today though we learn from TechCrunch Europe that Eric Schmidt from Google may need to head to Deutschland to proclaim that he is one of the good guys as there are calls to ban Google Analytics from sites with a .de extension.
Several federal and regional government officials in Germany are trying to put a ban on Google Analytics, the search giant’s free software product that allows website owners and publishers to get detailed statistics about the number, whereabouts and search behavior of their visitors (and much more).
According to an article in today’s Zeit Online (poor Google translation here), multiple federal and state government officials charged with guarding over national data protection are convinced that Google Analytics is against the law in Germany and are mulling imposing fines on companies who use the service to gather detailed stats based on their website visitors’ usage patterns without the explicit consent of those visitors.
What is probably just as interesting in this quote is the swipe taken at Google’s translation service. I woudn’t know a good German translation if it came up and smacked me in the head (apologies to Herr Manger who was my German teacher for two years in HS. Nothing stuck other than “Ich habe keine idee” which I think means “I have no idea” – NOTE- This was confirmed by Google Translate )
So apparently this isn’t the first time that the German government has voiced these concerns with most of their worry pointed at healthcare data and other sensitive areas. Interestingly enough some of larger media organizations use Google Analytics so this should be fun to watch if it actually turns into anything.
So what’s at risk for those using Google Analytics
One German lawyer that gets cited in the article says the penalties could amount up to €50,000 (about $75,000) per website that uses Google Analytics to keep track of its visitors’ usage patterns.
Google’s take. Well, they disagree of course. What else would you expect?
Now my question to the German government is the following. If you are uncomfortable with Google having this kind of data for many companies what about the individual companies that are collecting the same data using something else and not nearly as secure as Google is?