German Court Rules That IP Addresses Are Not Personal Info

from the it's-just-business dept

There’s been an ongoing discussion in Europe as to whether or not IP addresses should be considered personal info. The implications have a lot to do with how companies deal with your IP address. If it is considered private info, then they are quite limited in what they can do with it. If it’s not, then it opens up ISPs to being required to store your IP addresses in log files that they may be required to keep. As we noted when this debate first heated up, the entire argument is a little misleading, as it sets up a false scenario. Lots of your info is private in some scenarios and public in others. You give out your name freely in some cases, but in others might not want it known. Your IP address is, by default, “public” in that you have to display it to computers you connect to in order to do anything online.

A German court has now ruled that IP addresses should not be considered personal info, and thus can be stored without problem by ISPs. In this case, an individual had sued, claiming that sites that kept log files were violating his privacy, but that would be like saying a store that videotaped you entering their premises violated your privacy. Putting yourself out in public means you’re out in public, even if it’s online. In this case, it sounds like the court got it right.

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Comments on “German Court Rules That IP Addresses Are Not Personal Info”

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Benjamin Wright (profile) says:

legal terms of service

Some European authorities (maybe outside Germany) may still take the position that IP address is “personally identifiable information” subject to privacy law protection. However, a network administrator might justify its collection and processing of a visitor’s IP address by posting legal terms under which the visitor consents. –Ben

Allen (profile) says:

My first reaction was to half disagree, but the article you refer to said it already:

“Without additional information, IP addresses do not count as personal data”

Once you are able to link the IP address to something that identifies you personally like a user name or the email address entered above then it becomes a common key that could possibly be used to mine all sorts of private information.

Anonymous Coward says:

“Once you are able to link the IP address to something that identifies you personally like a user name or the email address entered above then it becomes a common key that could possibly be used to mine all sorts of private information.”

For example – plenty of forums display IP addresses which can be linked to the poster’s name or at least handle.

Jim says:


While I agree your ip address is requierd to be public I think an important point is being missed, you suggested when out side you are in public however if you are captured on cctv while in public there are rules on how that info may be used, viewed and stored. With regards to ip address use the concern is not that loks are kept, but how the data is used there is a differance between, network admin and police use and simply selling click data.

Michael Talpas (profile) says:

Let us look at the context. He sued because the sites he was visiting were keeping logs of his IP address. This is a lot like saying that when you go to the store and give them your name, they remember your name later on. Of course the site logs your IP address: this is part of how networking and the internet works. The computer, by its very nature, logs your visit when you send it your IP address. Duh.

Now, if he had been suing because they were using the logs for some sort of privacy violation, that might be different, and would bring up other problems. But the idea that you would sue because a computer remembered your name (As above, if you go to a store and tell them your name, you can’t sue because they later remember your name) is ridiculous. I’m glad to see someone in the government of Germany is paying attention.

Now, if we could get the idiots in the US to do the same, we might be getting somewhere…

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