Ever since the wi-fi snooping issue, Google has been facing problems in Europe, with respect to the local privacy laws.
In the first incident reported last week, data protection officials in Germany discontinued talks with Google and were to have likely to file a court case against the search engine, as their investigations led them to believe that Google was only playing for time.
In another case, Google is countering Spanish government mandates over alleged invasion of privacy laws. Spanish authorities have instructed Google to delete links to data that is outdated or inaccurate.
Analytics Trouble In Germany
The bone of contention, in Germany, was the detailed information collected by Google Analytics, from users’ IP addresses. The information is pulled from website visits in Germany and then processed in the U.S.A.
Both German authorities and Google were discussing this issue since November 2009. Google had agreed to shorten the IP addresses of users and create different protection modules for the various Internet browsers. However, this was not possible with Safari and Opera browsers and so their users did not remain anonymous.
Google maintains that Google Analytics has met the requirements of the European Union, since the beginning. However, Johannes Caspar, Commissioner for data protection in Hamburg believes that this is not enough, and Google is trying to merely pass the responsibility to the website operators.
As a result, the German government has started threatening businesses who use Google Analytics with steep fines and legal action.
Libel Trouble In Spain
In Spain, Google insists that the task of removing inaccurate information should be carried out by publishers and not by the search engine, as the latter would amount to censorship.
The Spanish data protection agency, the AEPD, says that Google is breaking the country’s laws, which gives people “the right to be forgotten”. The authorities filed 90 court orders against Google at the request of individuals who want Google to remove specific links that contain libelous content about the person’s past.
According to Google’s lawyer, “Search engines are a fundamental part of the information society, and it would be attacking freedom of expression.” That said, Google does block certain material that violates copyright regulations in the U.S.A. and neo-Nazi material in Germany, which also amounts to censorship, by their own reckoning.
In both countries, Google’s handling of privacy has once again come under fire. Neither government seems likely to back down. In fact, the German tactic of dissuading website owners from using Google Analytics could prove to be quite a dangerous tactic for Google if other countries in the region follow suite.