Court: IP Addresses Are Not ‘Personally Identifiable’ Information

Court: IP Addresses Are Not ‘Personally Identifiable’ Information

Court: IP Addresses Are Not ‘Personally Identifiable’ Information
Media Post
By Wendy Davis
July 6, 2009

In a ruling that could fuel debate about online privacy, a federal judge in Seattle has held that IP addresses are not personal information.

“In order for ‘personally identifiable information’ to be personally identifiable, it must identify a person. But an IP address identifies a computer,” U.S. District Court Judge Richard Jones said in a written decision…

Jules Polonetsky quoted:

Jules Polonetsky, co-chair and director of the think tank Future of Privacy Forum, adds that many sites with older privacy policies maintain that they don’t collect personally identifiable information, but log IP addresses. “For many years, people just threw around the term ‘personal information,’” he says. “They didn’t pay attention to account IDs in the hands of third parties, IP addresses — other types of information that, with some effort, could become identifiable.”

Polonetsky says that companies today are rewriting privacy policies to more carefully define their terms, adding that many in the industry now view IP addresses as more sensitive than completely random data.

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