IPv6 and the Future of Privacy

There is an increasing urgency to transition to a new infrastructure for addressing space on the Internet, and in this space all individuals and their devices could be uniquely identifiable by their Internet Protocol (IP) address(es). It is in light of this surveillant future that France’s recent ruling that IP addresses are not personally identifiable information is so serious. Further, it is with this longer temporal viewpoint (i.e. not just the here and now) that has more generally worried technologists about governmental rulings concerning binary ‘yes/no IP addresses are private information’.

Before I go any further, let me break down what an IP address is, the distinctions between versions 4 (IPv4) and 6 (IPv6), and then get to the heart of the privacy-related issues concerning the transition to IPv6. The technical infrastructure of the ‘net tends to be seen as dreadfully boring but, as is evidenced by the (possible) computer failures of Toyota vehicles, what goes on ‘under the hood’ of the ‘net is of critical importance to understand and think about. It’s my hope that you’ll browse away with concerns and thoughts about the future of privacy in an increasingly connected biodigital world.

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