Is Google Analytics illegal in Sweden?

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Published on Jan 13, 2023 and edited on Jul 5, 2023 by Carlo Cilento

Update: On June 23, the Swedish Data Protection Authority (IMY) issued four decisions against companies that used Google Analytics. All the decisions found the use of Google Analytics to be incompatible with the GDPR. And two fines were issued this time, one for €1M.

The press release on IMY’s website gives a nice, high-level overview of the legal context of the decisions, but there is quite a bit more to dig into. If you want to take a closer look at the decision and what it means for the use of Google Analytics, check this article.

Privacy NGO noyb filed five complaints against Swedish websites, complaining that the use of Google Analytics is not GDPR compliant.

The complaints have not been decided yet. However, four European data protection authorities already ruled against the use of Google Analytics in similar complaints by noyb and another (the Danish Datatilsynet) practically banned Google Analytics from Denmark in a press release. These authorities follow a coordinated approach, so other EEA and EU countries such as Sweden may follow.

  1. Should I worry about the GDPR in Sweden?
  2. What is the Swedish privacy legislation?
  3. What is all the GDPR fuss about?
  4. Final Thoughts
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Should I worry about the GDPR in Sweden?

Sweden is a Member State of the European Union, so the GDPR applies to all data processing activities from Swedish companies.

The GDPR also applies to any service targeting the Swedish market. Additionally, if your website’s target audience includes Sweden and you use Google Analytics, it also applies to you.

But there’s a catch- it only applies if you process personal data. Privacy-friendly analytics tools such as Simple Analytics allow you to get valuable insights without processing any personal data. This way, you comply with the GDPR because it doesn’t apply to the data you process in the first place.

What is the Swedish privacy legislation?

The main data protection framework is the GDPR of the European Union. This legislation is enforced by Swedish courts and by the Swedish data protection authority, the IMY. Sweden is also subject to Articles 7 and 8 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, which protect privacy and grant a right to data protection.

Furthermore, Sweden is a Member State of the Council of Europe. As such, Sweden ratified the European Convention on Human rights, which protects private life and correspondence. Sweden also ratified Convention 108 of the Council of Europe, which is the only binding international agreement on data protection.

What is all the GDPR fuss about?

The recent trend of decisions against Google Analytics is part of a larger legal puzzle about data transfers between the EEA and the US. So this is much bigger than individual countries such as Sweden, and it’s bigger than Google Analytics too. We wrote about this extensively already on our blog, so here’s a short version.

The core issue is State surveillance. Under the GDPR, European personal data can only be transferred outside the EEA when done safely. This is difficult for US data transfers because the US legal framework allows extensive and invasive surveillance over the data of foreign citizens, including Swedish citizens.

Two data transfer frameworks (Safe Harbor and Privacy Shield) between the EU and the US made GDPR-compliant data transfers possible in the past, but both frameworks were invalidated by the EU Court of Justice in the Schrems I and II cases. A third framework is on the way but will certainly face a legal challenge. With a Schrems III ruling already on the horizon, the future of EU-US data flows remains uncertain.

In the meantime, Swedish companies and European companies, in general, must resort to different legal tools (typically standard contractual clauses) to lawfully transfer data to the US under the GDPR. However, the issue with these tools is that they offer no protection against State surveillance. For this reason, the Court of Justice clarified in the Schrems II case that they must be supplemented by additional privacy-safeguarding measures whenever data is sent to “unsafe” countries. This is difficult and entirely impossible for the transfers required by certain cloud-based services such as Google Analytics (we wrote about this here).

After the Schrems II ruling in 2020, most companies kept doing business as usual with US-based service providers. In the meantime, NGO noyb filed 101 complaints about data transfers against European websites using Google Analytics and Facebook Connect to nudge authorities toward stricter enforcement of the Schrems II ruling.

Data protection authorities coordinated their approach at a European level to handle the complaints coherently. As a result, the Austrian, French, Italian, and Hungarian DPAs ruled against the use of Google Analytics in very similar decisions, and the Danish DPA essentially did the same in a press release. While the decisions address an individual controller, they all set a precedent that practically amounts to a State-wide ban, as we explained here. Should the IMY do the same, its decision would set a similar precedent for Sweden.

With coordination at a European level and the influential French and Italian authorities leading the way, other DPAs will likely follow the example and adopt a harder stance on Google Analytics.

Final Thoughts

Fortunately, there are alternatives to Google Analytics that don’t collect personal data and are 100% GDPR compliant. Simple Analytics is one of these. We believe you don’t need to use cookies or collect personal data to show insights into your website performance.

Gathering actionable insights and identifying opportunities from website analytics is possible without tracking individual website visitors. Want to see what that looks like? Check out our live dashboard here.

We believe in making the internet a safer place that is friendly to website visitors. If this resonates with you, feel free to give us a try.

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