Is Google Analytics Illegal?
Today the Norwegian data privacy authority declared that it considers the use of the Google Analytics tool by the national tax administration and the educational loan fund illegal.
Their argument is relatively clear. The public agencies apparently accepted Google’s standard terms of service which allows it to use IP addresses of tax and education fund users to provide other services. Moreover, if the user is logged into a Google services at the time, Google will also be able to identify the user.
While Norway is not an EU Member, it is a member of the European Free Trade Area and its data protection legislation closely tracks the EU’s, which makes this finding somewhat disconcerting. In fact, since IP addresses collected the agencies are sent to Google for processing, Google becomes an undeclared “data processor”, in clear violation of the law.
I can understand how this might happen since Google makes it simple (and tempting) to adopt Analytics to follow traffic on your site and people in the agencies’ IT departments therefore had a free alternative to going through a public procurement process to acquire a similar service that would properly treat the personal data.
Bottom line, there’s no free software out there. Second bottom line, hire a lawyer to train your IT department in the basics of data protection law.