Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Google disagrees with EU over IP

Google, a global free-to-serve Internet Service Provider (ISP), has disagreed with the European Union view over the status of ownership concerning Internet Protocol (IP) addresses.

While EU official has raised the prospect that IP addresses could be counted as personal data, the Internet firm, Google is thinking differently, insisting that it’s not a personal data.

Speaking at a hearing examining Google’s planned acquisition of DoubleClick, Peter Schaar, the German data protection commissioner and chairman of the Europe-wide privacy group, the Article 29 Committee, said that if a person could be identified by an IP address, then that address is private, reports Paul Meller of International Data Group (IDG) news service.

Also the report has it that the rule has been in existence in most countries in the EU for more than 10 years.

However, it is hard to set a clear-cut rule because some ISPs gave out fresh IP addresses to subscribers each time they go online and people also buy time online at Internet cafes.

The Article 29 Committee has been examining the question of IP addresses as part of its analysis of how search engines respect European data protection rules and its expected to reach some conclusions by mid-June, according to an official working for the committee who asked not to be named.

The committee cannot fine transgressors of EU data protection rules, nor can it propose legislation, but it can prompt the European Commission to do so.

Internet search companies, including Google, argue that an IP address merely locates a computer rather than identifying who is sitting at that computer. Treating IP addresses as personal information would have implications for how search engines record and use people’s data.

If the committee persuaded lawmakers to toughen IP address protection in Europe “that would definitely change things [for search engines],” said John Steinback, a spokesman on policy matters for Google.

From Google’s perspective, whether an IP address is personal depends on the context, Steinback said.

An ISP can link an IP address to a subscriber, but a website visited by the person using a specific IP address cannot link the address to a person, he explained.

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