Sweden on Monday ordered four companies to stop using a Google tool that measures and analyses web traffic as doing so transfers personal data to the United States, fining one company the equivalent of more than $1.1 million.
Sweden’s privacy protection agency, the IMY, said it had examined the use of Google Analytics by the firms following a complaint by the Austrian data privacy group noyb (none of your business) which has filed dozens of complaints against Google across Europe.
Noyb asserted that the use of Google Analytics for web statistics by the companies resulted in the transfer of European data to the United States in violation of the EU’s data protection regulation, the GDPR.
The GDPR allows the transfer of data to third countries only if the European Commission has determined they offer at least the same level of privacy protection as the EU, and a 2020 EU Court of Justice ruling struck down an EU-US data transfer deal as being insufficient.
The IMY said it considers the data sent to Google Analytics in the United States by the four companies to be personal data and that “the technical security measures that the companies have taken are not sufficient to ensure a level of protection that essentially corresponds to that guaranteed within the EU…”
It fined telecommunications firm Tele2 12 million kronor and online marketplace CDON 300,000 kronor.
Grocery store chain Coop and Dagens Industri newspaper had taken more measures to protect the data being transferred and were not fined.
Tele2 had stopped using Google Analytics of its own volition and the IMY ordered the other companies to stop using it.
IMY legal advisor Sandra Arvidsson, who led the investigation, said the agency has the rulings “made clear what requirements are placed on technical security measures and other measures when transferring personal data to a third country, in this case the United States”.
Nyob welcomed the IMY’s ruling.
“Although many other European authorities (e.g. Austria, France and Italy) already found that the use of Google Analytics violates the GDPR, this is the first financial penalty imposed on companies for using Google Analytics,” it said in a statement.
At the end of May, the European Commission said it hoped to conclude by the end of the summer a new legal framework for data transfers between the EU and United States.
The RGPD, in place since 2018, can lead to penalties of up 20 million euros or four percent of a company’s global revenue.