As we saw earlier this year with the implementation of new laws around website cookies the European Union is taking an increasing interest in issues around internet user privacy. Germany’s legislators lead the way in many issues around protecting user data and the banning of Facebook’s Like function is the latest example of this.

As is often the case legislation in one part of Europe is often adopted in others, with that in mind UK website owners should at the very least be considering the issues of user privacy in relation to their website, in preparation for any change in the law.

Banning the Like button on Facebook is unsurprisingly attracting a lot of interest.

However, this is merely the tip of the iceberg in terms of the amount of information which internet users unwittingly provide to organisations such as Google and Facebook.

Naturally, many businesses want to understand the behaviour of visitors to their website and turn to analytics tools to provide this insight.

Free tools, like those provided by Google could be used to harvest user data for resale to advertisers, whilst providing this service.

The techniques used by Google aren’t currently illegal in the UK, but users are increasingly becoming distrustful of the level of information being collected about their online habits and what this data is then used for.

Organisations such as Google are routinely collating data on individuals' online activity, developing an in-depth understanding and profile of their habits and preferences, which is extremely valuable information for targeted ad campaigns.

In a commercial environment where trust between supplier and customer is essential for sales, businesses need to be careful about their approach to the issue of data privacy. 

Businesses might be saving money by using a free service such as Google Analytics, but in the long run they could suffer through the loss of customer confidence and reputation damage. 

Whilst banning Facebook and collection of IP addresses is still a little way off in the UK, businesses should still be taking heed of the issues involved and putting a strategy in place to deal with them.

Christian Bennefeld is CEO of etracker

Pic: Robert Scoble cc2.0