Google Analytics has been deemed illegal by the Austrian data protection authority. A decision based on a previous resolution of the European court and that could end up affecting how the rest of the countries regulate the use of the popular Google statistics tool. We explain what happened, why this decision may be just the beginning of a bigger problem, and what privacy experts think about this matter.
Europe, the US and their fight for data. At the heart of this matter is the annulment in 2020 of the so-called Privacy Shield, by which European personal data can no longer be transferred to US servers. This doctrine, which is also called Schrems II, affected the companies like Facebook or Google, but they turned a deaf ear. So far, Austria has decided to make the use of Analytics illegal for violating the GDPR, which could lead to a ban and a fine of up to €20 million.
Why this decision can be extended? Max Schrems Explain that “they await similar decisions in all the Member States”, since they have filed a complaint with all the corresponding authorities and await a response. The European Data Protection Supervisor must also speak now. In other words, Austria’s position is only the beginning, since according to the latest decision of the CJEU, the use of Google Analytics and the sending of data from European users to the US is not legal.
Google Analytics will continue (for the time being) working. The Analytics ban is not yet final and only Austria has spoken out. Google’s tool will continue to work and in fact “the case only affects one publisher in particular”, explica Kent Walker, director legal at Google. It will be necessary to see if the rest of the courts understand the measure like the Austrians, who have opted for the most extreme application based on the CJEU resolution in 2020.
What is the medium-long term solution? In principle there are two clear possible paths. Or that the current law is maintained and North American companies have to review how they handle the data of European users, which would imply important changes in the use of many applications such as Analytics, or a possible Schrems III is also on the table. The latter would be a new treaty between Europe and the US for data transmission. It will be necessary to see what possible agreement the two powers reach, although they have been negotiating for years and there does not seem to be a simple resolution.
Estelle Massé, director of Access Now, points out that Google publicly expresses that it wants a “durable framework”, but that privately “it wants to find a solution that does not go through Congress”.
According points out Jorge Garcia Herrero, an expert in Data Protection, many European companies are waiting for a possible Privacy Shield III to see how they should act, but it does not seem that there has been much progress. Austria has hit the nail on the head, but the battle over the use of data still has many debates to resolve.
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