IP-tracking and privacy: a matter for European legislation?

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Members of European Parliament have called on the European Commission to regulate the “IP-tracking” systems of commercial internet sites. Marc Tarabella, a Belgian social-democrat MEP, alerted the Belgian media over what he considered as an illegal practice.

IP-tracking is, as the name states, when a commercial site registers the IP address of a potential customer possibly influencing the price of a product requested. For example: if you search online for an airplane ticket and decide not to buy it on the first instance, then visit the site again a little later, it could be the case that the price has risen.

A plausible explanation is that more customers have bought a seat on the plane, driving up the price. However, this is not always the case. In January 2013, the French newspaper Le Monde consumer’s protection blog SOS Conso concludes that some sites have been engaging in IP-tracking.

Various MEPs have alerted Viviane Reding, the Commissioner for Justice. The Commission responded that it is a matter of national law but that “clients should be informed about the processing.” However, if multiple Member States adapt their legislation in similar ways, this could be converged into a single European law in the future.

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