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Prompt Disclosure of IP Address by Internet

Author(s): V. Sridevi*, S. Leelavathy, R. Shobana and K. Shantha Shalini

For more than a decade, with the rise in numbers of users, the internet has become an extremely fraught site that has been frequently used in India for the perpetration of a range of 'cyber crimes' from extortion to defamation to financial fraud. Law enforcement authorities in India have not exactly lagged behind in bringing these new age cyber criminals to book, and have installed special ‘Cybercrime cells’ in different cities to combat crimes on the internet. These cells were particularly adapted at using IP Addresses information to trace individuals who are responsible for crimes. Briefly, an Internet Protocol address (IP address) is a numeric label which is a set of four numbers like which is assigned to every device like computer, printers and all that are participating on the internet. Each website operators and ISPs typically maintain data logs that track the online activity of each IP address that are accessing their services. Although IP Addresses refer to particular computers, not necessarily individual users, it is possible to trace these addresses backwards so that we can expose the individual behind the computer. Even a casual Google search would reveal police authorities in different cities in India that have been quite successful in employing this technology to trace culprits. Along with its utility in the detection of crime, the tracking of persons by their IP addresses is potentially invasive of individual’s privacy. Here we will be reviewing the statutory mechanism regulating the retention and disclosure of IP addresses by internet companies in India. In order to provide context, we study with a compilation of anecdotes on how various law enforcement authorities in India have used IP address information to trace individuals responsible for particular crimes.

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