01 May 2016
Support our work: become a Friend of Statewatch from as little as £1/€1 per month.
Press release from Patrick Speyer, MP for the Pirate Party in the Schleswig-Holstein regional parliament (Germany); issued 12.5.16
The EU's top lawyer today answered a question that seems to be as old as the Internet. In his opinion, IP addresses are personal data and may be collected only where allowed by data protection law. The opinion concerns the case of German pirate party politician and privacy activist Patrick Breyer who is suing the German government over logging all visits to government websites (Case C-582/14).
The Advocate General did not opine on whether website operators may retain IP addresses in bulk or whether the users privacy rights prevail. EU law does not give specific guidance on the matter.
Breyer calls on the Commission to act on the lack of specific EU rules protecting on-line privacy: "The Commission should amend EU legislation to specifically prohibit any blanket recording of our Internet use by website operators. Europe should reject the ruthless NSA method of 'collecting it all' and enforce our right to freedom of information and expression in the digital age."
Breyer argues that websites can be safe without tracking every user across every page: "This Internet stalking is about as useful as hanging a CCTV camera next to an open warehouse door. We need secure IT systems, not a general suspicion against Europe's 400 million Internet users".
Website operators often record and track their users online behaviour for commercial purposes, but also to disclose records to law enforcement agencies and owners of copyright-protected content upon request. Breyer is challenging this practise and demands that operators anonymize users' IP addresses:
"Banning governments and Internet giants from identifiably recording our browsing habits is the only way to effectively shield our private life and interests, to prevent erroneous infringement notices and false suspicions. IP addresses have turned out to be extremely prone to error und unreliable when used to identify users. For as long as browsing the Internet can result in prosecution, there is no real freedom of information and expression on-line.
Nobody has a right to record everything we do and say on-line. Generation Internet has a right to access information on-line just as unmonitored and without inhibition as our parents read the paper, listened to the radio or browsed books."
Spotted an error? If you've spotted a problem with this page, just click once to let us know.
Statewatch does not have a corporate view, nor does it seek to create one, the views expressed are those of the author. Statewatch is not responsible for the content of external websites and inclusion of a link does not constitute an endorsement. Registered UK charity number: 1154784. Registered UK company number: 08480724. Registered company name: The Libertarian Research & Education Trust. Registered office: MayDay Rooms, 88 Fleet Street, London EC4Y 1DH. © Statewatch ISSN 1756-851X. Personal usage as private individuals "fair dealing" is allowed. We also welcome links to material on our site. Usage by those working for organisations is allowed only if the organisation holds an appropriate licence from the relevant reprographic rights organisation (eg: Copyright Licensing Agency in the UK) with such usage being subject to the terms and conditions of that licence and to local copyright law.