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Monday, February 27, 2006

Google Analytics and Privacy: A Quick International Comparison

As we know, Privacy laws vary throughout the world. Companies doing business internationally need to pay attention to privacy laws to stay on top of the appropriate country-specific requirements.

As an example, take a look at the 1-paragraph Privacy section of Google Analytics US Terms Of Service document, and compare it to their 4-paragraph Privacy section in the TOS for the UK. The common verbiage is around the fact that they collect information, using a cookie as an identifier, and they do not want site operators to send them any personally identifiable information. A good idea to be sure.

There are a few differences worth noting:
  1. They include a sample statement to be included in the privacy policy of the site using GA. They call out that the servers collecting the data are stored in the United States, and that they are collecting data for reports and for "providing other services relating to website activity and internet usage". Hmmm. They also note that they "will not associate your IP address with any other data held by Google".
  2. They have a short paragraph noting that Google may review your website to make sure you've posted an appropriate policy.
  3. Finally, they note that they will retain all of the data.
I wonder why they don't have the same TOS for the US? It all seems reasonable and clear (except that "providing other services" stuff...). The sample privacy statement is straight-forward, and it makes sense that they would want to follow up to see if folks are actually including a privacy statement. And, we definitely know they are collecting and keeping the data...all part of the circle of analytics.

Oh, and perhaps Xavier can come out of retirement to confirm that the French version does indeed look like the UK version (it looks the same to me...but of course, I can't read French).

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  1. Hi Eric,

    I've checked the French, Spanish and Italian versions and they state the same as the UK version. If you want I can ask Aurélie to check the Dutch and German versions but I guess they will be as the UK too.

    I've always had the feeling that privacy was more a concern in Europe than in the US. This reminds me of my Political studies back at the university. The ‘Latins’ (i.e. people coming from the South of Europe such as Italy, Spain, Greece, Portugal or France for instance) are much more concerned about privacy issues than the non continental Europeans and some Nordic countries. My wife Aurélie for example is Dutch and very often we have arguments because of cultural differences. When we started dating for example she didn’t have any curtains in her apartment (typically Dutch, it’s their protestant legacy as she tells me: nothing to hide) and for me that was a big problem because I’m used to my privacy when I’m at home and I don’t like the idea that someone could be watching through the window. After long negotiations in our new home we have curtains in our bedroom but not in our livingroom ;-)
    To take another example, in politics it would be unthinkable that in Spain someone resigns from government because of an extra-conjugal affair as this has nothing to do with competence (cf. MonicaGate). By the way we are huge West Wing fans.

    I'm sometimes amazed of what we can see with Web Analytics about what happens in a website and I wonder how the privacy notion will evolve in the future. I guess that time will tell. I’m happy to read in WAA’s latest newsletter that they have dedicated a chair to privacy. I guess it will be of interest for everyone in the industry.

    Kind regards,


  2. Eric - I confirm Rene's assessment of the French TOS. I grew up in France and I can tell you that privacy protection is much stronger there, therefore I am not too surprised.

    Adding to Rene's colorful comments, I'd also say that Americans are used to massive amounts of direct marketing/advertising compared to France - French reject most forms of advertising, they don't like getting "sold".



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