Google’s Insight into Canada’s Economic Action Plan

in Analytics,Google,Privacy

Last week, Techcrunch published an interesting piece on the potential illegality of Google Analytics on German websites.  Members of the German government believe that the use of Google Analytics on a German website is contrary to the privacy laws established to protect the personal, private information of German citizens.

German government officials are concerned that “Google could conceivably create profiles of people that would include information about their interests, lifestyles, consumption patterns, political and sexual preferences.”  The crux of the issue appears to be “how much identifiable data is sent to and stored on servers located on U.S. soil.”  The US Patriot Act gives authorities the means to secretly view personal data held by U.S. organizations, and according to some it is “at odds with Canada’s privacy laws“.

In Canada, we have laws in place that are intended to protect the interests of Canadian citizens as it pertains to the transfer and storage of personal, private information.  PIPEDA, or the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, is one such piece of legislation that is commonly cited with regards to data privacy issues. The Privacy Act is another important legislative framework in Canada.

In light of the above, I was surprised to discover that the website designed by the Canadian government to address Canada’s Economic Action Plan is using Google Analytics to track and monitor website activity.  In simple terms, it would appear that the Government of Canada has been providing Google (and thus US intelligence) with metrics on the way Canadian citizens have reacted to and engaged with the Government of Canada’s economic action plan.

I’m now left wondering if the Canadian government is in violation of it’s own privacy legislation?  Is the undisclosed use of Google Analytics on a Government of Canada website contrary to the principles of PIPEDA?  Is this something that should be brought to the attention of the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada?  Does the Canadian government have an obligation to provide a reasonable explanation for sharing sensitive political and economic data with US intelligence?  What are your thoughts?

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Puhleeze 12.07.09 at 08:44

Puhleeze. Google analytics collects less personal information than is offered in the phone book. If you want to make sure Google doesn’t know anything about .gc.ca visitors, then the gov should delist it’s websites from the Google crawl. Anybody think that’s a good idea?

It’s reports like these that slow the progress of the government on the web.

Anybody who wants to avoid leaving any info behing need only surf anonymously–it’s about as easy as crafting a tinfoil hat. If you don’t know how, ask the german chancellor.

admin 12.07.09 at 10:40

@Puhleeze Thanks for dropping by! It’s not every day that I receive comments originating from the Privy Council Office (IP: 198.103.111.110). As you can see, Google Analytics is a very powerful tool. To suggest that Google Analytics “collects less personal information than is offered in the phone book” is nothing short of an absurdity.

Information about the internet activity of Canadian citizens on a Canadian government website is being transmitted to a foreign corporation without proper disclosure. In my humble opinion, this is cause for concern and deserving of a meaningful explanation from the appropriate authorities; not from somebody in the PM’s office hiding behind “anonymous” blog comments.

Stuart 12.07.09 at 13:22

I used to be the Regional Website Coordinator for Human Resources Development Canada. We wouldn’t have used a 3rd party tool for monitoring website statistics, and definitely not one hosted in another country.

At the University I work at now we don’t run Google Analytics for the same reasons we didn’t when I was with the Government.

Hearing about this, and the comment from @Puhleeze / Privy Council Office is very surprising. Why aren’t they running their own analytics in-house?

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