EU Law Analysis: IP addresses as personal data – the CJEU’s judgment in C-582/14 Breyer

EU Law Analysis: IP addresses as personal data – the CJEU’s judgment in C-582/14 Breyer – The questions of the German Supreme Court were specifically focussed on dynamic IP addresses. These are less privacy-invasive than static IP addresses. The difference between them is that the dynamic ones change with every new connection to the internet and the static ones do not. IP addresses are assigned by Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and take the form of a series of digits. In principle, in itself they do not reveal the identity of a specific natural person but can be combined with other information to identify the owner of a device that connects to the internet. Typically such other information is at the disposal of the ISP. In its Scarlet Extended judgment of 2011 the CJEU clarified that, from the perspective of the ISP, IP addresses are personal data. However, in the Breyer case the scenario was different. The German federal institutions which run the websites only had the IP addresses and the additional information that is needed to identify the visitors of those websites was held by the ISPs. The CJEU was asked to clarify if the German federal institutions (the data controllers) should treat the IP addresses as personal data even if they are not in possession of this additional information.

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