Funmi Sobodu

Austria appears to have set off a wave of European countries looking to ban the use of Google Analytics, as Italy becomes the fourth country to declare Google Analytics illegal after Austria, Holland and France.


Brace Yourself

A trend is beginning to emerge:

  • December 2021 – Austria declare Google Analytics illegal
  • January 2022 – Holland declare Google Analytics illegal
  • February 2022 – France declares Google Analytics illegal
  • June 2022 – Italy declare Google Analytics illegal


The main bugbear amongst these European data protection authorities is the transferring of personal data to the United States.

Google Analytics transfers the following data:

  • Device IP address
  • Browser information
  • Operating System (OS)
  • Screen resolution
  • Language selection
  • The date and time of the site visit

All of this data is supplied without adequate supplementary measures to raise the level of protection to the necessary EU legal standard. The lack of protection around the data being sent to the US directly goes against the protection set out by GDPR.

In addition to that, American law means Google is obliged to disclose data to U.S. intelligence services if requested – including European citizens. As you can imagine, this is a big no-no in the eyes of the EU. Thus the mass banning of Google Analytics begins…

Is it possible to use Google Analytics legally?

Technically yes, but in practice not really.

The CNIL’s (France) guidance suggests only very narrow possibilities for EU-based site owners to use Google’s Analytics tool legally:

  1. Apply additional encryption where keys are held under the exclusive control of the data exporter itself or other entities established in a territory offering an adequate level of protection.
  2. Use a proxy server to avoid direct contact between the user’s terminal and Google’s servers.”

However, Austria’s stance appears to be even stricter, and the Austrian data protection authority (Garante) goes on to state that:

  • Data encryption won’t solve the problems as Google still holds the keys to this encryption, therefore they can still access the data if they so choose to.
  • Anonymising data is also not a viable solution as there is no way to prove this is done before the data is sent to Google in the US.

To add insult to injury – as of now there is also no legal agreement between the EU and US, therefore the future is not looking great.

It is worth pointing out that Google Analytics is not the only tool suffering from this issue. However, they are by far the largest and they might be being used as an example/warning to other companies.

Will GA4 solve the problem?

Google Analytics 3 will be sunset in 2023 and there is a big push toward the ‘privacy-centric’ GA4. So you could be mistaken in thinking that GA4 will solve the problem, however, this is not necessarily the case. Google has taken the following steps:

  • GA4 will process all data from end devices within the EU on servers in the EU.
  • GA4 processes IP addresses for geo-location, but no longer stores IP addresses.
  • GA4 allows the deactivation of Google Signals to prevent linking with Google accounts.
  • GA4 allows the configuration of the granularity of collected geo and device data (e.g. screen resolution requiring consent).

The new changes are welcome, however, it is still unclear if these changes are sufficient enough for the EU.

There are a number of features that would need to be turned off to get GA4 100% compliant, but this would come at a loss of data accuracy and functionality. Therefore this is something to consider in the future.

So, what now?

It’s almost impossible to run Google Analytics legally according to the EU, and any legal framework around this is still very far away.

Google Analytics as it stands is still legal in the UK, however, our advice would be to watch this space – European countries are banning Google Analytics at an alarming rate.

More and more users are demanding privacy, therefore for those in the countries affected, consider removing Google Analytics from your website and exploring other options where you are in control of the data – there are a number of options out there and we can help!

If you need help adapting your measurement strategy, then please talk to one of our friendly experts today.

More on this subject