The legal implications of geo-identification
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Location may determine whether a person falls within the jurisdiction of a particular state, it may determine which law is applicable to a person's conduct, and it may determine whether or not a judgement can be successfully enforced. Indeed, it could be said that, as far as private international law is concerned, location almost always matters. However, until recently it was often said to be impossible to link those active on the Internet to a geographical location ("geo-identification"). This is all changing. A recent survey revealed that a large number of companies, particularly in the US, seek to identify the geographical location of those who visit their websites. Further, the courts' perception of the possibility (in some cases) or impossibility (in other cases) of geo-identification has been determinative in several court cases. This article aims at providing a basic overview of so-called geo-location technologies, their technical structure and their legal and regulatory implications.
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