EU debates privacy of IP numbers

Google says 'there's no black and white answer'

The European Union moved closer to labelling Internet Protocol addresses as personal information yesterday at a public hearing of the Civil Liberties Committee.

Peter Scharr, Germany's data protection commissioner and the man behind an EU group considering the privacy policies of major search engines, told the meeting that if IP addresses identify a specific individual they should be considered personal data, AP reports.

A spokesman for Google told the Reg: "It was definitely one of the central issues of discussion yesterday. Our position is that it depends on the context."

Peter Fleischer, global privacy counsel for Google, told the meeting yesterday: "There is no black and white answer: sometimes an IP address can be considered as personal data and sometimes not, it depends on the context, and which personal information it reveals."

But Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Centre, disagreed. He said: "...but we are moving towards the IP6 model, for which it will be even more the case that IP addresses will be personably identifiable".

Rotenberg said that deals like Google's takeover of DoubleClick "underscore the need to bring data protection into account when the responsible authorities review the merger". The EU is currently considering whether or not Google's purchase of DoubleClick should go ahead.

US Federal Trade Commissioner Pamela Harbour said there was no consensus on the IP issue.

The EU statement is here. ®

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