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France Suspends Internet Piracy Monitoring after Hack Leaks Private ISP Data

Posted: 17th May, 2011 By: MarkJ
ip address lookup tmg franceIn a move that could have repercussions for the UK Digital Economy Act (DEA), France has effectively been forced to "temporarily" suspend the operation of its Hadopi anti-piracy law after a hack attack exposed thousands of internet ( IP ) addresses that allegedly belong to French broadband ISP customers (i.e. those suspected of internet copyright infringement).

The attack targeted a private company, Trident Media Guard (TMG), which had been entrusted to carry out the task of monitoring public P2P (BitTorrent) filesharing networks for "illegal" internet copyright infringement (piracy) by customers of French ISPs.

Despite initial denials from TMG, which claimed that "no confidential and personal data had been published on the Internet", two separate reports from TorrentFreak and Numerama were able to discover that thousands of IP addresses and related P2P file transfer details had been leaked.

The leak was promptly reported to France's Secretary General of Hadopi, Eric Walter, whom announced on Twitter yesterday evening that, "as a precaution Hadopi decided to temporarily suspend its interconnection with TMG". As a result the governments controversial monitoring of "suspected" French P2P abusers is now on hold. This does not affect the bulk of data that has already been collected.

It's unclear what this will mean for the future relationship between the French government and TMG or how long the suspension will last. The situation, which is not unlike last year's ACS:Law email leak of similar information (here), should at least serve as a cold reminder for the dangers of related data collection by third party firms.

However, claims that the leak could bring the whole Hadopi law down would appear to be extremely premature. Sadly data leaks happen all the time, often from government departments, and the French government are unlikely to give up so easily. Meanwhile the UK government often ignores the known fallibility of IP address data and appears to be indifferent to data security concerns.
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