Is Google Analytics illegal in the EU?


Google Analytics is a powerful tool that helps website owners track and analyse their website traffic. However, when it comes to using Google Analytics in the European Union (EU), there are certain legal requirements that need to be considered. This article aims to provide an understanding of the legality of Google Analytics in the EU and discusses the key takeaways for website owners.

Key Takeaways

  • Website owners using Google Analytics in the EU will need to comply with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), and obtain valid consent from users.
  • Implementing a cookie banner and managing user preferences are essential for Google Analytics compliance.
  • Anonymisation of IP addresses and data security and encryption are important privacy measures for Google Analytics.
  • Failure to comply with Google Analytics regulations can result in fines, reputational damage and legal consequences.
  • Website owners should keep up to date with the latest regulations and ensure they are following best practices for using Google Analytics in the EU.
  • There are privacy-friendly and cookie-free alternatives to Google Analytics, such as Swetrix. These alternatives allow website owners to collect important metrics without displaying cookie banners or violating user privacy.
  1. What is Google Analytics?
  2. Is Google Analytics legal in the EU?
  3. Consequences of non-compliance with Google Analytics regulations
  4. Conclusions

What is Google Analytics?

How does Google Analytics work?

Google Analytics works by collecting data from websites and analysing it to provide insights into website performance and user behaviour. When a user visits a website that has Google Analytics installed, a piece of JavaScript tracking code is run, which sends information about the user's interaction with the website to the Google Analytics servers.

The tracking code collects several types of information, including the user's IP address, the pages they visit, the actions they take on the site, and the device and browser they use. This data is then processed and aggregated by Google Analytics to generate reports and metrics that help website owners understand how their website is performing.

Overall, Google Analytics provides insights that can help website owners make data-driven decisions to improve their website's performance and user experience.

What data does Google Analytics collect?

Google Analytics collects various types of information to provide insights about website performance and user behaviour. Some of the data collected includes:

  • Pageviews: The number of times a page is viewed.
  • Sessions: A group of interactions that take place on a website within a specific time frame.
  • Bounce rate: The percentage of single-page visits where the user leaves the site without interacting.
  • Referral sources: The websites or platforms that refer traffic to a website.

General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a comprehensive data protection law that was implemented in the European Union (EU) in 2018. It aims to protect the personal data of individuals in the EU, and regulates the processing of such data by organisations.

The GDPR introduces several key principles and requirements that organisations must adhere to when using Google Analytics, or any other data processing tool. These include:

  • Legal basis for processing: Organisations must have a valid legal basis for processing personal data, such as obtaining the consent of the data subject or fulfilling a contractual obligation.
  • Purpose limitation: Organisations must clearly define the purposes for which they collect and process personal data and ensure that it is not used for other purposes.
  • Data minimisation: Organisations should collect and process only the minimum amount of personal data necessary to achieve the stated purposes.

However, privacy-friendly Google Analytics alternatives exist. Swetrix allows you to collect important metrics without gathering any personal data.

Cookie consent

In the context of using Google Analytics in the EU, cookie consent is a critical aspect of compliance. Website owners must ensure that users give informed and explicit consent to the use of cookies, including those used by Google Analytics. This consent should be obtained before any cookies are set, and users should be able to withdraw their consent at any time.

To effectively manage cookie consent, website owners can implement a cookie banner that clearly informs users about the use of cookies and provides options for consent. In addition, obtaining valid consent means ensuring that users are fully aware of the purposes for which their data will be processed, including the use of Google Analytics. This can be achieved through clear and transparent communication with users, using plain language and easily accessible information.

It's important to note that the requirements for cookie consent are outlined in the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), and failure to comply with these requirements can result in significant fines and penalties.

If you want to avoid cookie banners and consent pop-ups, you can use a cookieless alternative like Swetrix. Swetrix is an open-source web analytics tool that does not invade user privacy.

IP Address anonymisation

Anonymising IP addresses is a critical step in ensuring compliance with privacy regulations. By removing the last octet of the IP address, Google Analytics helps protect the privacy of website visitors. This process makes it virtually impossible to identify an individual based on their IP address alone.

Implementing IP anonymisation is relatively simple. Website owners can enable this feature by adding a simple snippet of code to their Google Analytics tracking code. Once enabled, IP addresses collected by Google Analytics will be anonymised before being stored or processed.

It is important to note that IP anonymisation does not affect the accuracy or usefulness of the data collected by Google Analytics. It still provides valuable insights about website traffic and user behaviour, while ensuring compliance with privacy regulations.

In summary, IP address anonymisation is a necessary measure to protect user privacy and comply with data protection laws.

Consequences of non-compliance with Google Analytics regulations

Fines and penalties

Failure to comply with Google Analytics regulations can have serious consequences. Penalties for breaching data protection laws can be significant, with fines of up to €10 million or 2% of a company's global annual turnover, whichever is greater.

It is important for organisations to understand and comply with legal requirements to avoid these financial consequences. In addition, non-compliance can lead to reputational damage, as customers may lose trust in a company that mishandles their personal data.

To ensure compliance, organisations should implement robust data protection measures, obtain valid consent from users, and regularly review and update their privacy policies and practices. By doing so, they can mitigate the risks associated with non-compliance and protect both their reputation and their bottom line.

Reputation damage

Failure to comply with Google Analytics regulations can result in reputational damage for businesses. If organisations fail to comply with the legal requirements for using Google Analytics in the EU, they may lose the trust of users and customers. This can have a negative impact on a company's brand image and reputation.

To avoid reputational damage, organisations should prioritise data protection compliance and ensure they have the necessary consent management solutions in place. By obtaining valid consent from users and effectively managing their preferences, organisations can demonstrate their commitment to protecting user data and maintaining transparency.

In addition, organisations should regularly review and update their privacy practices for Google Analytics. This includes implementing appropriate data retention periods, ensuring secure data sharing with third parties, and using encryption methods to protect user data.

By prioritising data protection and compliance, businesses can mitigate the risk of reputational damage and maintain a positive image in the eyes of their users and customers.

Legal consequences

In extreme cases, non-compliance can lead to legal action against the organisation, potentially resulting in further financial and reputational damage.

European Center for Digital Rights has filed complaints against dozens of companies across the EU for using Google Analytics because it doesn't comply with the GDPR.

These complaints are still in progress, however the Swedish court has already ruled a fine of 1,000,000 EUR against Tele2 and 30,000 EUR against CDON for using Google Analytics on their websites. Other EU countries (such as Austria and France) have made similar decisions to declare that Google Analytics violates the GDPR. This means that companies using Google Analytics can be fined.

It is critical for organisations to understand and comply with the legal requirements surrounding Google Analytics in order to avoid these potential legal consequences.


The legality of Google Analytics in the EU is a complex and evolving issue. While the use of Google Analytics can provide valuable insights for website owners, it also raises concerns about privacy and compliance with EU regulations. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has set strict guidelines for the collection and processing of personal data, and website owners need to ensure they are complying with these regulations when using Google Analytics. It is important that website owners understand the implications of using Google Analytics and take the necessary steps to protect user privacy and comply with applicable laws.

Cookieless alternatives to Google Analytics, such as Swetrix, are a great way to reduce the pain of complying with privacy regulations. Swetrix is an open source web analytics tool that does not violate user privacy. It is easy to install and provides valuable insights into website traffic and user behaviour without the use of cookies or other tracking technologies.