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Judge Rules IP Addresses Not "Personally Identifiable" 436

yuna49 writes "Online Media Daily reports that 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,' US District Court Judge Richard Jones said in a written decision. Jones issued the ruling in the context of a class-action lawsuit brought by consumers against Microsoft stemming from an update that automatically installed new anti-piracy software. In that case, which dates back to 2006, consumers alleged that Microsoft violated its user agreement by collecting IP addresses in the course of the updates. This ruling flatly contradicts a recent EU decision to the contrary, as well as other cases in the US. Its potential relevance to the RIAA suits should be obvious to anyone who reads Slashdot."
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Judge Rules IP Addresses Not "Personally Identifiable"

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  • Re:Yup (Score:3, Informative)

    by Penguin Programmer ( 241752 ) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @12:43PM (#28624175) Homepage

    An IP address DOES identify a computer- but not the way the judge thinks. My IP address identifies my router, which in turn owns 5 to 6 computers. With the wireless open, it could refer to the whole neighborhood, for all I know/care. They need to revise, an IP address identifies a NETWORK, but not neccessarily conclusively any particular computer.

    A router is still a computer. An IP address identifies a computer. Whether that computer has other computers connected to it, and forwards traffic from those computers using its IP address, is an entirely separate matter.

  • by zarmanto ( 884704 ) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @12:59PM (#28624469) Journal

    I think the "it's my car, but it wasn't me" is a valid defense, and why I so loathe red light cameras and photo radar. All an investigator can say from either of these is that a specific car was captured on film.

    Quite so... and in some jurisdictions, red light cameras can be disputed very readily, specifically because of this issue. If your car is caught running a red light, and your teenage kid was the one driving the car, then the ticket can be invalidated by a very simple process: You (as in, the vehicle owner) sign a notarized affidavit stating that you were not the person driving the vehicle at the time of the traffic infraction, and you mail that back to the address indicated on the ticket that was mailed to you. The ticket is immediately dismissed without question.

    Of course, in my example above (and frankly, in most cases) the owner of the vehicle knows perfectly well who the driver of the vehicle was... so the premise behind these mailed out tickets is that the owners outrage at the person who ran through the red light is going to exceed their outrage at the system which misidentified the owner as the person who violated the law. So the number of people who avoid the fine by taking the trouble to actually get a signed affidavit is likely negligible compared to the profitability of the cameras overall.

    (Unfortunately, I can't really find a good way to relate all of that to the primary discussion about IP addresses...)

  • Re:Yup (Score:4, Informative)

    by fredklein ( 532096 ) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @01:41PM (#28625235)

    In case of your examples that is not too hard to prove/disprove: did the person keep the computer reasonably up to date? Can't expect installing patches the minute they are released but at least within a reasonable time span. Did the person have anti-virus, anti-spyware or other security software installed, running and kept up to date? Did they read the manual that came with said wireless device before plugging it in?

    Gaddammit, I paid $200 for this 'Winders XP' thing. Now you're tellin me I gotta 'Update' my 'Patches' and thingerwhoose why whatzits?? Anti-spy ware? What am I , a secret Agent? I paid a lotta money for it! It should just work!! I shouldn't have to buy anything else! I shouldn't have to READ anything. It should work right when I plug it in!!

    (If you think I'm exaggerating, you don't work in techsupport or any kind of Customer Service).

  • by jsalbre ( 663115 ) <jsalbre@gmailTEA.com minus caffeine> on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @02:16PM (#28625835) Homepage Journal

    If I were the prosecutor, I would go after WHO is responsible for the hardware. And if they claim to not be the perpetrator, then I would require them to identify who it is (since they are responsible for their connections/hardware/etc).

    Luckly that's not how it works. The burden of proof is on the prosecution, not the defense. If they don't have proof that it was you (which, from this ruling should no longer include an IP address) then you go free. You don't have to proove that it was someone else, just prevent them from proving it was you.

  • Re:Yup (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @04:01PM (#28627537)
    Assuming you're referring to the Jammie Thomas case, she also admitted to having no router and only one computer.
    Countless sources [google.com]
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @05:07PM (#28628355)

    "I can go to the DMV and look up your license plate to get owner information"

    I believe that you are quite mistaken about looking up personal data, based on a license plate. Maybe that is possible where you live, but it is NOT possible in most states. You must have access to DMV computers to get that info, meaning, you are a cop, or a court officer, or a DMV employee. Joe Blow can't get that info, because he may be a stalker or predator going after some pretty girl he saw at a red light.

    Personally identifiable info can only be had by a private individual or business WITH A WARRANT. The problem is, RIAA and company never gets a warrant, nor are they entitled to get warrants. None of the information in the possession of the ISP should be handed over to these bogus enforcement agencies. NONE.

It is not for me to attempt to fathom the inscrutable workings of Providence. -- The Earl of Birkenhead