Blogging in Germany: Google Analytics and IP addresses

Bloggers in Germany generally have a hard time with all the regulations.  Over the next few days, I’m going to explain some of them and what they mean for us.

A graph - ©Can Stock Photo Inc. / pashaboAnyone in the blogging business will probably tell you that statistics are an important part of running a blog.  Not to the extent that you are checking them every hour, you understand.  But at the very least you need some decent figures on how many visitors you receive each month and how often each of them visits the site.

Getting more advanced, it is also good to know which posts were read the most, how the site was found, eg. in a search engine, and just generally trends that show whether the traffic to the site is going up or down.

Most providers in Germany offer this kind of service when you rent your webspace or server, but the quality of the statistics differs widely.

Anywhere else in the World, you would probably say “so what?” and install Google Analytics, a tool that offers you statistics about almost everything happening on your website.

But not in Germany.  At least, not unless you want to take a risk.

The problem with Google Analytics is that it allows profiling.  Whether this is done by cookies (small bits of information that the web browser stores) or by the IP address (the number that identifies your computer on the internet), the fact that it can be done is sufficient to make some data protection officials get very upset about its use.

At the time of writing, it is not technically banned in Germany, but some of the federal states are taking a very close look at it, even to the extent of warning people with websites that if it does get banned at some point, they face a fine for having used it.

Even if I don’t live in one of the strictest areas, I still do not use it on my sites.

The silly thing about it is, that it is all down to asking permission.  Google, or the website operator, needs to ask permission before they profile someone, even though the whole thing is anonymous.  And Germans do give their permission for a lot of profiling, especially when they get something “for free”, like a store card.

But as so often happens, someone complains and a Government agency (or in some cases, a law court) rules on something that they don’t quite understand.

In Germany you usually must ask permission to store data about someone.  There’s nothing wrong with that, until someone decides that an IP address is considered to be personal data.

So before I store your IP address, I should be asking you.  Except that, if you visit my website, how can I ask you for permission before you visit it?  The very moment your computer starts loading the page, it tells my web server the IP address it wants the page delivered to.

Crazy, isn’t it?

Thankfully I have a provider who masks part of the IP address in the server log file, to avoid it being saved for later use.   But it’s these sort of decisions that make life difficult for a blogger in Germany.

And over the next few days, I’ll tell you about some more…

Comments

  1. I’m curious how exactly they would enforce something like a ban on google analytics…what about sites hosted in other countries? Would it apply to only “.de”s or only sites hosted in Germany? Would the German web become a place censored because people could then only access websites not using it? Would be very curious to hear the answers to these questions, should you do a follow up.

  2. @Clickclackgorilla: at the moment it looks as if it would apply to sites where the owner is resident in Germany, or for businesses here. Since a .de Domain must be have a German address in the registration, I assume it would apply to all of those – even for multi-national companies who just have a subsidiary here.

    Even AllThingsGerman.net, although it is a .net domain, is affected because of my German residency.

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  1. Tweets that mention Blogging in Germany: Google Analytics and IP addresses | Blogging | AllThingsGerman.net -- Topsy.com says:

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Graham Tappenden and A Brit Abroad, All Things German. All Things German said: Blogging in Germany: Google Analytics and IP addresses http://goo.gl/fb/YOiw6 […]

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