Courts have started to address the tricky — but important — question of whether IP addresses are personal information in which users have a right to privacy — statutory or otherwise.
Most recently, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia found that “Internet subscribers do not have an expectation of privacy in their subscriber information as they already have conveyed such information to their Internet Service Providers.” (MediaPost provided good coverage of the decisions.) The district court declined to quash a subpoena that had been issued to an ISP seeking subscriber information.
But just two days earlier, Switzerland’s highest court had held that IP addresses are personal data protected by under Switzerland’s data privacy laws. It found that the privacy rights of ISP subscribers outweigh the intellectual property interests of copyright holders. The New Jersey Supreme Court has also held that subscribers have a privacy interest in their IP addresses. Invoking the New Jersey Constitution’s protections against unreasonable search and seizure, the court required a lawful subpoena to access subscriber information provided to an individual’s Internet service provider. The court noted that its decision was dependent on existing technology and practices.