Friday, November 27, 2009

Google's web analysis tools face German scrutiny

Google is once again facing the possibility that it could run afoul of Germany's strict privacy laws. The culprit this time? The web analysis tools of the US internet giant and other firms.

A group of state and federal data protection experts is meeting on Thursday and Friday to discuss whether the use of informational tools such as Google Analytics are legal according to German law.

The weekly newspaper Die Zeit reported that the authorities are looking into ways of discouraging German websites from using Google Analytics, including penalties if necessary.

“We only heard from a third party that they would be meeting this week and want to come up with a resolution in terms of all web analytics and web tracking software,” Google Germany’s spokesperson Kay Oberbeck told The Local on Thursday.

“They are not singling out Google Analytics, but are looking at a general resolution on all the big players in the market.”

The authorities fear that Google and other internet companies could compile profiles of millions of web users, detailing their interests, habits, consumer behaviours, as well as political and sexual preferences, Die Zeit reported. The paper added that what makes privacy experts nervous is the possibility that this data could be combined with fundamentally personal details such as addresses, bank account numbers and health insurance details.

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