EU vs Google Fonts: The Saga Continues

Brad Hickey
Apr 5, 2022 7:18:00 AM

If you have been following the ongoing saga between Google and European data regulators, you know that officials recently deemed Google Analytics to be in breach of GDPR laws as it sends data back to non-European servers.

This episode continues as a German regulator has recently ordered a website to pay damages for embedding Google Fonts. This widely used service allows website owners to use a catalog of over 1400+ fonts.

Historically, these fonts have been served from a content delivery network (CDN), which is a geographically distributed network that offers the highest speeds for static resources. However, browsers have recently blocked resources from being cached between sites using CDNs, so this approach is no longer as advantageous.

The issue lies in the IP address tracking. When using a CDN to retrieve the font, small packets of data are sent to Google’s servers to ensure you have the latest version for your browser. This allows Google to track your IP address as part of the transaction. The regulators claim that this IP address, along with other collected data, can allow Google to identify the user.

As many of our sites use Google Fonts, we advise that website owners download the font file and host it directly on their web server. It’s worth noting that there are two major downsides to this approach. The first is speed, as most hosting solutions will not be able to match the speed of Google’s servers. The second issue is maintenance, as you will need to maintain the font artifact and will not be guaranteed to always have the latest version. However, the upside of being compliant and not sending additional data to Google currently outweighs the downsides.

We will continue to monitor the situation and provide recommendations to our customers.


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