What did you really agree to when you clicked “I Accept” on the Google Analytics Terms of Service (TOS) agreement? You may not be aware of all of the caveats and safeguards that Google put in place to protect themselves and potentially start charging for the service. Read carefully!
I have signed up for multiple GA accounts and never took the time to read the TOS until now. Like any legal document, it’s dry and at times full of legalese and formality. Here’s what you need to know…in plain English (emphasis and italicized comments are mine):
Google Analytics Terms of Service
This agreement is between you and Google. By accepting, you confirm that you are eligible for an account and agree to abide by all of the terms and conditions.
Account – the “billing account” for charges for using GA based on page views. Yes, they openly discuss charging for access to Google Analytics. Even though it is currently a free service, Google may be reserving the right to add fees later.
Customer Data – data collected related to your visitors’ activity.
Documentation – online or offline help content.
Page View – the standard unit of measurement for GA; any time the UTM (tracking code) is executed on a page. Note that if you have more than one profile tracking activity on a single page, you will be “charged” for multiple Page Views.
Processing Software – the Google Analytics software that analyzes and reports on Customer Data.
Profile – the settings for including or excluding data to be tracked and reported. A single Site can have multiple Profiles.
Report – the analysis of any Customer Data; includes charts, graphs, and statistics.
UTM – the GA tracking code that you install on your site.
Servers – the physical servers where Customer Data is stored and Processing Software resides.
Site – a group of web pages linked to an Account and use the same UTM. A Site can have one or more Profiles.
Software – the tracking code (UTM) and Processing Software.
2. Fees and Services
Unless you or Google terminates this agreement (section 15), you can use GA for free to track up to 5 million pageviews per month per account. You can track unlimited numbers of pageviews if you have an active Google Adwords account.
Google may change the fees and payment policies at any time, including additional charges for geographic data, importing of PPC data, or any other fees passed along by 3rd party providers. Again, a mention of fees!
3. Member Account, Password, and Security
You must provide complete and accurate info on the registration form. It’s your responsibility to protect your password, even if you supply it to 3rd parties. You are solely responsible for any activity that happens within your account. You must notify Google immediately if your password is breached. You agree to let Google personnel log into your account to “maintain or improve service” (no guarantees of not using your data for other purposes).
4. Nonexclusive License
Google is licensing (letting) you to use their software within the uses outlined in the TOS. You agree not to copy, modify, adapt, re-engineer, reverse engineer, de-compile, rent, lease, sell, remove any Google branding, or interfere with the collection and processing of data.
You are responsible for following the laws in your jurisdiction. This agreement is terminated if you break the rules.
Nothing is confidential unless it is proprietary or labeled “confidential”. Neither you nor Google will disclose confidential info to the public. You are responsible for the confidentiality of your password (again) and you must alert Google to any breach (again).
6. Information Rights and Publicity
Google may use your data if you consent, the law requires it, it will protect Google or others, or Google’s 3rd party vendors need it (e.g. billing and data storage).
Google is not responsible (you are!) for claims or lawsuits brought against you or them related to your use of Google Analytics if you A) violate the TOS, B) break the law, or C) your products or services stink. You will pay Google’s legal expenses if they must defend themselves in a 3rd party claim against your use of GA.
9. Third Parties
If you register or administer a GA account on behalf of a 3rd party (a friend, a client, etc.), you agree that they own their data, you have their permission, and you will not disclose their info to anybody else without their consent.
You are responsible for their actions related to GA and you are supposed to inform them of the TOS. Google is not responsible for any actions taken by a 3rd party or lawsuits against them. You are!
10. Disclaimer of Warranties
The Service or Reports are not guaranteed to be “accurate, timely, or otherwise reliable” or free of viruses. The software can change at any time, with or without notice. There may be downtime. They may not fix errors if they don’t want to. Everything is “As Is”. This is not applicable in every state. Check your local laws.
11. Limitation of Liability
Google is not liable for any lawsuit or problem arising from your use of GA. This is not applicable in every state. Check your local laws.
Google’s total liability to you for loss or damages related to GA is $500.
12. Service Levels
The GA service may go down due to things outside Google’s control. Statistical accuracy is not guaranteed.
13. Proprietary Rights Notice
Everything Google provides is proprietary. The rights belong to Google. Steal them at your own risk.
14. U.S. Government Rights
Any government (or gov’t contractor) usage of GA must conform to the TOS.
15. Term and Termination
You or Google may terminate the Agreement (TOS) at any time for any reason. If terminated, you must delete all tracking code from your site.
16. Modifications to the TOS and Other Policies
Google can change the TOS at any time without telling you, simply by posting it online (anywhere, not just at google.com/analytics). You agree to changes in the TOS simply by continuing to use the service after the TOS changes (even if you aren’t alerted to the change).
17. Miscellaneous; Applicable Law and Venue
Google is not liable for anything. Your jurisdiction’s laws may vary. Google is an independent contractor. This agreement is binding for all successors of either party.
The Bottom Line
Google Analytics is a fantastic service for most small to medium-sized businesses.
But just because it’s free and it comes from Google doesn’t mean you should ignore due diligence. Read the complete TOS carefully before agreeing to anything. Make sure that anybody that administers your website analytics reads and understands the agreement.
Note: This is my interpretation, not a legal opinion. The TOS was retrieved on August 16th, 2009 and may have changed or vary by location.