This post is about the website of Newspaper Licensing Ireland, who have recently written to a non-profit organisation whose aims I wholeheartedly support, seeking license fees for linking to newspaper content published on the internet by the newspaper publishers. McGarr Solicitors, who are acting for Womenâ€™s Aid, have published a detailed analysis of the situation and the questions raised on their website, which I link to in the confidence that the McGarrs wonâ€™t come looking for a pound of flesh in return.Sticky buns perhaps, but nothing worse.
I will ignore the fact that this action seems to be in ignorance of the way the Internet works, particularly with regard to search engine optimisation and page ranking where relevance and significance of content, and hence itâ€™s positioning in Google searches and the value of the real-estate for on-line advertising purposes. Iâ€™ll ignore how the use of links simply tells people to â€œlook over here â€“ I found this interesting, so you might toâ€. Iâ€™ll ignore the fact that links are effectively the footnotes on the Interweb that tell people where your source was for a thing.
(But if you do want to actually understand this aspect, the Wikipedia entry on Search Engine Optimisation has a reference to the Google PageRank algorithm and how it works (at a high level). And Dr. Cathal Gurrin in Dublin City University did his Doctoral thesis on the topic.And Iâ€™m sure someone somewhere has done an economic analysis of link density [the number of inbound links to a site] but I canâ€™t be bothered to look for it tonight.)
What I will talk about here is the fact that, when I went to the NewsPaper Licensing Ireland site (which I wonâ€™t link toâ€¦ just in case) to see what the potential cost to an SME with 0-10 employees would be. I still donâ€™t know the answer.
Iâ€™d expected a form that would take certain inputs and churn them around to spit out a ball park figure. Iâ€™d expected to see something that would relate the license cost to, for example, the average hits or distinct site visits on the SME company site per month (to make the cost meaningful as those stats are the foot fall of the Web).
What I didnâ€™t expect was to be asked for a contact name and the name of the company on that form. Company name Iâ€™m not to concerned about. But the contact nameâ€¦
â€¦thatâ€™s personal data. Therefore under s2 of the Data Protection Acts it must be obtained for specified and lawful purpose and must be fairly obtained. So I went looking for a Privacy Statement (there was none). So I turned on my cookie checkers to see what was being written by the site to my device wot is connected to a public communications network (and therefore would be a cookie within the meaning of SI336 and as such would require consent unless necessary for the service Iâ€™m trying to avail of).
My tools revealed that NLI are using Google Analytics on their site. In a manner which is in breach of the Terms and Conditions of use for Google Analytics which state very clearly in Section 8:
The emphasis in bold is mine. What Google requires is for people using GA to put in place a Privacy Statement but that that Privacy statement needs to clearly detail the use of Google Analytics, the fact of data transfer to the US, the purposes to which the data will be used etc.
NLI have no such Privacy statement, and no such text, so no mechanism to confirm my consent to the cookies that are being written by Google Analytics.
So, the site is operating in breach of SI336 and Googleâ€™s terms and conditions, and is effectively breaching contractual conditions governing the use of Googleâ€™s services and the fundamental right to Personal Data Privacy as enshrined in Article 16 of the Lisbon Treaty.
All of which Iâ€™d never have considered looking at at all if they werenâ€™t sending threatening letters to a charity that exists to help and protect women experiencing domestic violence.