Website Fined By German Court For Leaking Visitor’s IP Address Via Google Fonts

Earlier this month, a German court fined an unidentified website $110 for violating EU privacy law by importing a Google-hosted web font. The Register reports: The decision, by Landgericht Munchen's third civil chamber in Munich, found that the website, by including Google-Fonts-hosted font on its pages, passed the unidentified plaintiff's IP address to Google without authorization and without a legitimate reason for doing so. And that violates Europe's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). That is to say, when the plaintiff visited the website, the page made the user's browser fetch a font from Google Fonts to use for some text, and this disclosed the netizen's IP address to the US internet giant. This kind of hot-linking is normal with Google Fonts; the issue here is that the visitor apparently didn't give permission for their IP address to be shared. The website could have avoided this drama by self-hosting the font, if possible. The decision says IP addresses represent personal data because it's theoretically possible to identify the person associated with an IP address, and that it's irrelevant whether the website or Google has actually done so. The ruling directs the website to stop providing IP addresses to Google and threatens the site operator with a fine of 250,000 euros for each violation, or up to six months in prison, for continued improper use of Google Fonts. Google Fonts is widely deployed -- the Google Fonts API is used by about 50m websites. The API allows websites to style text with Google Fonts stored on remote servers -- Google's or a CDN's -- that get fetched as the page loads. Google Fonts can be self-hosted to avoid running afoul of EU rules and the ruling explicitly cites this possibility to assert that relying on Google-hosted Google Fonts is not defensible under the law.

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