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.
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.
Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, criticizes the Microsoft ruling as “a silly decision.” “The judge didn’t understand the significance of the IP address or the reason that it was collected,” he says.
Rotenberg adds that the judge prematurely dismissed the case, arguing that more facts were needed to determine whether IP addresses were personally identifiable.
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