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Privacy Concerns Over Google On the Rise In Germany 63

Posted by kdawson
from the not-being-evil-we-promise dept.
An anonymous reader writes "After protests from several sources, major German news site Spiegel Online has dropped Google Analytics. 'Google gathers so much detailed information about its users that one critic says some state intelligence bureaus look "like child protection services" in comparison,' they say. Spiegel Online no longer uses Google Analytics. 'We want to ensure that data on our users' browsing patterns don't leave our site,' says Wolfgang Büchner, one of Spiegel Online's two chief editors." The article covers a wide swath of German concern over Google's data-collecting and -handling policies, including a local rebellion against Google's Street View survey vehicles that threatens to go national.
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Privacy Concerns Over Google On the Rise In Germany

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  • Color me stunned - not even a FP troll. Was this story improperly formatted when it was posted?
    • by krou (1027572)
      I guess Google Analytics must be more powerful than we thought.
    • Maybe the low number of posts and such is the result of the Cogent/Sprint peering agreement falling over?

      (It's strange, but it seems any time anybody releases their cloud, the internet gets cratered with peering trouble. It's particularly interesting because a cloud's selling point is strongly tied to its centrally-managed reliability, and a sputtering internet connection effectively negates that advantage over locally managed desktop apps. The biggest losers of this are Google and Amazon, as their busin

      • I guess if you wanted to be conspiracy-theoretical about it...

        Have you noticed how NoScript blocks google-analytics.com from almost every site you visit, including Slashdot?

  • weird (Score:4, Insightful)

    by speedtux (1307149) on Monday November 03, 2008 @08:23PM (#25620247)

    Germans accept that the German government tracks and records their entire lives: connection tracking, on-line surveillance, unique identifiers, mandatory carrying of identity cards, government registration of where they live and work, and even registration of their religious affiliation. This data can be mined, exchanged, and used by different government agencies.

    It seems quite weird for Germans to get upset about ad tracking. Between Google and the German government, I'd be much more concerned about what the German government might do with that data; their history is, shall we say, less than stellar.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by slater86 (1154729)
      I don't think they're worried about being tracked but rather that its a third party. It does seem silly but remember how they handled the outlawing of hack tools. Pure irrational thinking at its best :-S
    • Re:weird (Score:4, Insightful)

      by cpghost (719344) on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @10:39AM (#25625479) Homepage

      It's all about accountability. German government is held accountable for its actions, while Google, as a foreign company, isn't. At least not from a German perspective.

      That's exactly the same reason why CAPPS-II-like [eff.org] data transfer of airline passenger data to the US is very much frowned upon in Germany: people are afraid that those data won't be handled with the same care in the US (probably by some commercial contracted entity) than by their local government authorities.

      • by quanticle (843097) on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @10:47AM (#25625559) Homepage

        I guess that's one of the big differences between European and USAian attitudes. Here in the USA we treat governments with the same level of mistrust (and, in the case of some agencies, a higher level of mistrust) than corporations. In Europe, it almost seems to be the reverse.

        • I guess that's one of the big differences between European and USAian attitudes. Here in the USA we treat governments with the same level of mistrust (and, in the case of some agencies, a higher level of mistrust) than corporations. In Europe, it almost seems to be the reverse.

          It's changing rapidly though, at least here in Germany. With all the new laws that are being put into place that increase the government's right to spy on people (some of these in clear violation of our constitution), people get a lot warier of what they are told.

          Alas, the "war on terror" sloshed over here as well and made for a great excuse for a lot of braindead decisions.

      • by speedtux (1307149)

        It's all about accountability. German government is held accountable for its actions, while Google, as a foreign company, isn't. At least not from a German perspective.

        Google is subject to European data protection laws when operating in Germany.

        Contrary to what Germans think, the US has strong data protection laws and got them many years before Germany.

        I think the difference between the US and Germany is that Americans don't trust their government to follow the law. Germans seem to have a blind trust in th

    • by orzetto (545509)

      Germans accept [...] and even registration of their religious affiliation.

      Man, is this coming from America, the one country in the West where you the government is allowed to record your political affiliation when you register to vote?

      Government registration of residence and workplace can be abused, but generally serves a number of legitimate purposes, as do ID cards (which are not a tool of the Big Brother, as some privacy Quixotes would have it). What is exactly the reason for the government knowing what

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        It's my understanding that you register your party afiliation to vote in the primaries

        • by quanticle (843097)

          You only have to record your party affiliation in states that have closed primaries (i.e. primaries in which only people registered to that party may vote). Many states (like Minnesota, for example) have open primary/caucus systems, where anyone may show up and make their voice heard, regardless of their party affiliation. In fact, when I registered to vote here, there wasn't even a box on the form to record your party preference.

          Besides, even in states that have closed primaries, you're still allowed to

          • Yeah but if you say you are independent then you cannot vote during any of the party primaries.

            independent means you can only vote in non-partisan, etc

        • by orzetto (545509)

          Which is another weird thing. Why do states and public institutions meddle in the primary process of a party?

          I voted in primary elections held my country (which is one of the great things we got from America, granted), and no one ever came close to the idea of involving any public office in the process. To vote, one had to give a minimal contribution of 1 euro and give proof of identity. Those were the first nation-wide primaries ever in my country, and 4,311,149 voted (including people abroad, like me: I v

      • Well... it's a wee bit more complicated than you suggest. But basically, a voter in the US is never required to declare their political affiliation when they register to vote.

        Trouble is, this is handled differently by each state in our federal republic. So please do forgive me that I didn't go off and research into 50 states (and assorted territories) to confirm this.

        But you are quite free to refrain from declaring your political affiliation. This puts you in a special sought after group we call "Indepen

        • by orzetto (545509)

          But basically, a voter in the US is never required to declare their political affiliation when they register to vote.

          Got as much. Yet, just because you can register, this can be turned into a requirement (see the old argument about the ID card being made de facto obligatory if required in enough places). Suppose your state administration is in the hands of the Coprolitan party, and you are trying to be on amicable terms with them (you need some sort of license for your business, or you work for the administ

      • by speedtux (1307149)

        You don't have to register your party affiliation with anybody in order to vote. Furthermore, if you do register, the registration doesn't constrain who you vote for in the election. Many registered Republicans probably voted for Obama.

        The primary system is a system by which political parties select their candidates. It is an alternative to the party-internal processes that are used in many other systems to select candidates. Primaries have their own problems, but they are better than backroom deals.

        Giv

    • Well, for starters the largest constitutional complaint ever is under way against the government's draconian data retention program, with more than 30,000 plaintiffs.
    • I'd be much more concerned about what the German government might do with that data; their history is, shall we say, less than stellar.

      Many Germans share your concern about their governments' less than stellar [wikipedia.org] history. We all know that once the data is accumulated, it will be used. Therefore it's important to prevent such massive data collection, among other things.

    • Actually it's not that hard to explain:

      We still have the government largely under control, and the parties have to work for their votes. The very system is so geared that no party has an absolute majority, and the best they can manage is to form a fragile coalition that has the majority. But even then the coalition can form the other way around over night, moving a party from head of the majority coalition to head of the opposition. It doesn't happen often, but the threat is there. Politicians know better t

      • by speedtux (1307149)

        Lots of parties, a parliamentary system, coalitions, and massive governmental data collection was what got Germany into trouble in the 1930's. What reason do we have to believe that it will be any better this time?

        Germany has ex-communists and ex-Stasi in its parliament, and Nazi sympathizers have significant political influence.

        n practice it seems to me like actually that's more privacy than you'd expect in the unregulated USA, where companies routinely sell customer data to the highest bidder

        The US is no

    • by JSchoeck (969798)
      You are right. My fellow Germans, as a majority, accept and frankly hardly care about their personal data at all.

      Luckily, with the recent data loss scandals, it MIGHT start to get better - but the only political parties that really care about personal information security and data protection are the Green and the "Socialist" party.
      Most people vote conservative or mildly leftist, so we - the people who care about freedom of information and such things - can't do much more than protest (as for example at th

    • Between Google and the German government, I'd be much more concerned about what the German government might do with that data; their history is, shall we say, less than stellar.

      No, because we Germans know quite well that our government (or our politicians, for that matter) are plain stupid, whereas some really smart asses work at Google. ;)

      On a more serious note: most of what you mentioned stems either from EU regulations (data retention, i.e.) or is common practice in other EU countries as well.

      Not that

      • by speedtux (1307149)

        And while you find it amusing that we accept mandatory registration, I, for example, find it amusing that a U.S. citizen has to register himself in order to be able to carry out his most basic democratic right: voting.

        In Germany, you don't need to register to vote because the government already knows so much about you anyway. Furthermore, Germans seem apathetic about it.

        Voter registration exists in the US because the government doesn't know who you are, and it only involves the minimum amount of informatio

  • Actually, transmitting data about a person outside the country without the explicit permission of the person is forbidden by privacy laws at least in Austria, and I assume in Germany too.

    Google Analytics definitely falls in this category.

    Of course, webmasters don't care or know about it and since everyone is using it, it is hard to find regulations at this point (as jurisdiction has to analyze the new situations that the web brings up).

    If Google Analytics would be seen as a web bug having information from m

    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Austria and Germany can forbid whatever they like, and Google will do what the hell they want, and will do it because they CAN. After all, most sites are hosted in the US over lines that go to the US and primarily run in the US. This is apparently transparent to most users who never realize while hackin away at their terminals in Trier, Deutschland, that their favorite site is actually maybe in Joplin, Missouri, USA. Google Analytics does not use only 'cookies'. It also seeks to take over al the browsers

    • by TFGeditor (737839)

      Shouldn't that be "verboten"?

    • by tremby (962560)

      the thing is, it's not Spiegel who is transmitting the data -- it's the visitor. Google Analytics provides a script (JS), a pointer to which is included in the website's HTML. when the visitor's browser comes across it, it fetches the script from Google's server (as long as they're not running Noscript or similar with suitable rules to block it). the request for the script itself provides some of the data that Google Analytics stores (referring page, for example). the browser then executes the script and ob

      • by KDR_11k (778916)

        The exact technical process doesn't matter, it matters that the Spiegel website initiated that process.

    • by scientus (1357317)
      Nope, the USA (really IT lobbies) has a special deal with the EU where we can use your data as if its in the EU but without the same laws applying. Its called Safe Harbor [export.gov]
  • It occurs to me that Google and co have been and are putting together a series of products to warm the cockles of any dictator, cabal. secret police, star chamber etc even to the details and location about individuals in a street. Rather like a super market. Or a squad of semi-military police who knock on your door ask your name and check you off against a google shopping list. Does it make you feel warm inside to know that all that information is in such kind hands?
  • by TechwoIf (1004763) on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @02:14AM (#25622929) Homepage
    This story is about to fall off the front page with about 10 comments. If you think about it, you understand why it troublesome. Shouldn't there be about 100 or so comments? Its as though no one care about privacy.
    • by Spit (23158)

      I can easily opt out of google's services by adding their netblocks to my black-hole. Unlike the government who can kick my door down. If it wasn't google doing this stuff, it would be microsoft. Think about that.

  • Added google-analytics.com to Zone Alarm zone control, router URL block, and Hosts file. Problem solved.

    Overkill, you think?

  • A few months ago Google claimed it could impose its legal terms on the public just by publishing the terms. Maybe members of the public can impose their own terms of privacy protection on Google just by publishing [blogspot.com] those terms! A person might -- for example -- say in her published privacy terms that analytics engines cannot keep records of her activities longer than a week. --Ben http://hack-igations.blogspot.com/2008/05/google-privacy-policy-terms-of-service.html [blogspot.com] My ideas are not legal advice for any p
  • Since most people here still think Google is so great. My guestimate: In less than 10 years we will all find out that Google is not that cool. This is criticial thinking not mindless flamebait. Why? Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

  • Want to browse without getting registered by google analytics? Simple:

    1) Install Firefox

    2) Get the NoScript plugin

    3) Browse to site using google analytics

    4) Choose Forbid google-analytics.com

    5) ???

    6) Profits!!!

    Only one problem: Many (most?) people can't be bothered and may not even care at all.

    • by tremby (962560)

      Only one problem: Many (most?) people can't be bothered and may not even care at all.

      i'm included here. there's nothing sent to Google that personally identifies me, and i have no problem with webmonkeys knowing which OS and browser i'm using or which country i'm in. i maintain a bunch of websites and i find my Google Analytics data very useful indeed. i'm happy to allow GA on my own Noscript since it helps out others like me.

  • Okay, so the story goes Der Spiegel picked Google to help them help themselves to people's data, and then made a big deal about helping themselves some other way because Google might end up mining the data. I'm missing the part where consumers are protected.

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