Recently, the Austrian data protection authority (DPA) determined that the use of Google Analytics by a local website violates the GDPR because there is a risk that US intelligence agencies can access user data. This also led the Dutch authorities to say that they are investigating two similar claims in the Netherlands and will soon make a decision on whether they will ban Google Analytics or not. In light of these developments, Google published a blog post highlighting the need for a reliable data transfer system between the EU and the US.
Google notes that the global scale of online business and the ability to share information through data streams are of great benefit to the economy. It argues that the proliferation of expensive media and information services will contribute billions of euros to the EU alone in the coming years. Thus, it is necessary to create a reliable basis for data flows between the EU and the US as soon as possible.
Commenting on the decision of the Austrian DPA, Google expressed disapproval, saying that for the past 15 years it has been providing its analytics services to businesses around the world and has never received requests from US intelligence agencies to provide data to Google Analytics. He does not expect such a request to come any time soon given the strict laws in the area.
Google also emphasized that it already offers customers several additional measures to protect their data. And while the Austrian ruling now only affects one publisher, it fears it will lead to a slippery slope where the theoretical risk is that businesses will not be able to use Google Analytics. The technology company emphasized that this is a risk to the global economy.
As such, Google has proposed that a framework for data flows between the EU and the US be developed soon to protect the respective interests of all participants, stating that:
The stakes are too high, and international trade between Europe and the United States is too important to the lives of millions of people, to find a quick solution to this urgent problem.
A strong structure that provides stability to companies that offer valuable services in Europe will help everyone at a critical time for our economy. The new structure will strengthen the transatlantic relationship, ensure the stability of transatlantic trade, help businesses of all sizes participate in the global digital economy and avoid potentially severe disruptions to supply chains and transatlantic trade. And it will ensure that people’s right to privacy on both sides of the Atlantic is continuously protected.
We strongly support the agreement and have supported reasonable rules governing government access to user data for many years. We have long advocated government transparency, legal processes, and oversight reform. We were the first major company to produce a report on the transparency of government requests for user data, were founding members of the Global Network Initiative and the Government Surveillance Reform Coalition, and supported the OECD workflow on government access to data. At this juncture, we urge both governments to take a flexible and coherent approach to this important issue.
Whether or not governments heed his urging for such a structure, Google says it will continue to provide the highest level of data protection across all of its products.