21. January 2022

Is Google Analytics now taboo for us Europeans?

Which options you really have, if you want to continue using Google Analytics. An analysis by Thomas Tauchner.

“You do NOT need a #GoogleAnalytics alternative. You can switch to an alternative, but you don’t have to!”

“Google Analytics is illegal” dominates online marketing news on all social networks. And yes, the Austrian data protection authority (and soon probably many others) has determined that the default client-side implementation of Google Analytics is non-compliant (even with Google’s IP anonymization).

This was predictable, long overdue, and absolutely the right thing to do.

Of course, some “experts” and interested companies are now proclaiming that you can’t use Google Analytics under any circumstances and that you need an alternative for it (read: another analytics tool).

This is simply WRONG. Nothing more, nothing less. You can switch to another analytics tool. But if you want, you can continue to use Google Analytics. You just have to implement it correctly from a technical perspective.

What we need to understand first – problem vs result:

The Austrian data protection authority found the transfer of personal data to the USA (in this case Google Analytics) to be non-compliant, even with the SCCs. In this specific case, this means that the problem is the transfer of personal data to America. On the other hand, the result of this is that Google Analytics in the usual client-side implementation is no longer legally accepted, since in this variant there is ALWAYS a personal data transfer through the IP address.

This difference is quite important to understand. What exactly is the problem and what was the result in this case. With this important distinction, we can now also define possible solutions quite logically.

Option 1: Switch to European analytics solution –
Personal data does not reach America.

One possible solution to avoid sending personal data to the USA is to switch to a purely European alternative. This means that the data ends up on a purely European server (this is important and should definitely be ensured; otherwise the same problem exists) and is processed there for analysis.

Option 2: Data anonymization in the EU –
Anonymized data comes to America.

There is a second possible approach that allows you to continue using Google Analytics. If you use a purely European server-side tracking solution, you can still perform data anonymization in the EU and then forward this data to Google Analytics. This way, data is sent to the USA without any personal reference – 100% GDPR-compliant.

That’s how we do it at JENTIS, by the way. The problem is not Google Analytics per se, as I said – please don’t let anyone tell you that. It’s the illegal transfer of personal data to the USA – and that can be solved with anonymization on European servers of a European company.

This way you can then keep your preferred analytics tool and still be fully compliant. #win-win

The will also be important for other American tools in the future. Look for a tool that solves the problem of international data transfer – because then you can use all other tools like Facebook or Google Ads in a compliant fashion as well.

And to reiterate, switching to an alternative can make just as much sense. At the same time, you really should look at all possible solutions and decide what is the best fit for your business based on relevant criteria and the real problem in mind.

Update: In July 2023, the EU Commission approved the new EU-US Data Privacy Framework (DPF), removing many of the restrictions of Schrems II and making it much easier for organisations to transfer EU personal data to the US. However, the new framework will be challenged legally by NGOs (possible “Schrems III”). Therefore some legal uncertainty will remain until the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) rules on the matter. JENTIS Data Capture Platform enables future-proof GDPR-compliant tracking, regardless of the data privacy framework and potential challenges.

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