Anti-Piracy Company Breaches Privacy, Ordered to Shut Down

The infamous anti-piracy tracking outfit Logistep has been criticized by the data protection commissioner in Switzerland for helping to breach the privacy of people on file-sharing networks. Logistep, who track file-sharers all over Europe, has 30 days to stop collecting data, or face further action.

Swiss based anti-piracy company Logistep gathers information about alleged file-sharers from all over Europe, and sells it to copyright holders who want to make a business out of threatening legal action against file-sharers, in order to get cash ‘compensation’.

Currently there are hundreds of people in the UK being threatened due to the data Logistep gathered for the Two Worlds, Dream Pinball 3D and Colin McRae cases. Having heard nothing for 12 months after receiving their initial threats through the post, people accused of sharing the pinball game are now being threatened again – and some are getting more worried that this isn’t going to go away. Or is it?

We mentioned in a previous article how P2P tracking companies are seen by some to be breaching privacy laws. It seems Logistep has come to the attention of the data protection commissioner in Switzerland (EDÖB -Eidgenössische Datenschutz- und Öffentlichkeitsbeauftragte). He believes there is a problem with Logistep handling personal data, when it’s far from clear that the person being spied on has even committed an offense.

TorrentFreak spoke to Christian Solmecke, a lawyer defending five hundred file sharers in Germany, for more details. He told us: “In my eyes we have a similar problem here in Germany. The data protection commissioner is of the opinion, that collecting data (which is against telecommunications secrecy laws in Switzerland) is only allowed in the context of a criminal prosecution and not in private [civil] law.”

Lawyers Davenport Lyons acting for the copyright holders in the UK show the court ‘evidence’ from Logistep, saying they need it for a criminal case, so that they can obtain a court order. Once they have the order to force the ISP to hand over the alleged file-sharer’s personal details, they pursue a purely civil action to get compensation.

So what happens next? Christian told us: “The EDÖB suggests that Logistep should stop collecting data about P2P users. Logistep now has 30 days to comply, otherwise the EDÖB will bring the case to the Federal Administrative Court of Switzerland.”

Adding further momentum to the IP address/privacy issue, the European Union’s data privacy regulators said on Monday that IP addresses should be considered personal data. Germany’s data protection commissioner, Peter Scharr, told a European Parliament hearing on data protection that when an individual is identified by his IP address “then it has to be regarded as personal data.”

A court in the UK would no doubt be interested in the questionable legality surrounding the data harvesting carried out by Logistep, should a UK file-sharer in these cases ever see a court room. Up to now, there’s not been much more activity, other than threatening letters. However, Davenport Lyons has implied it gained a court ‘victory’ on December 17th following ‘Final Warning’ letters it sent to people in the ‘pinball’ case recently. However, this appears to be a ‘victory’ against someone who just didn’t bother to turn up in court. Some precedent.

Christian Solmecke works as a lawyer in Germany at the Cologne Chambers of Lawyers Wilde & Beuger.

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