Sweden: Herring and Privacy

March 10, 2021

Considering all the privacy-related charges European authorities have made against tech companies, we are surprised to learn that “Swedish Authorities Pass On Personal Data of Web Visitors to Google” from the Big News Network. It sounds like the transgressions may not have been intentional. We are told:

“A number of government agencies in Sweden pass on personal data belonging to individuals who visit their websites to Google despite guaranteeing anonymity, local media reported on Thursday. More than 80 government agencies and over 150 authorities pass on personal data in the form of IP addresses belonging to those using their websites without informing them, according to Radio Sweden News. The European Court of Justice has ruled that IP addresses can be used to identify individuals, according to the report. The information is then stored on servers in the United States, making the issue more sensitive as personal data protection is not as strong as within the European Union.”

We are given the example of Statistics Sweden, which had more than 10 million visits last year alone. The agency’s communications director seemed surprised to learn the site has been forwarding IP addresses to Google for over two years. Since Radio Sweden News broke the story, several Swedish agencies and authorities have removed Google Analytics from their websites. Better late than never, we suppose, just like herring nine ways.

Cynthia Murrell, March 10, 2021

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