The Chicago Tribune ran an article about a Buffalo Grove trustee who sued the Daily Herald newspaper (see their article here), forcing it to reveal the identity of a poster who had an online debate with her son and posted disturbing statements just after the trustee won her seat in April 2009.  According to the article a Cook County judge ordered that the newspaper provide the trustee with information that could be used to identify the poster.Every time you use a computer to surf the internet, check e-mail, or access company resources on a network your computer is assigned an Internet Protocol (IP) address.  This address is akin to a street address for your home.  It contains a network address and a host address.  Think of the host address as your house number and the network address as your street name, town, and zip code.

Many internet service providers and network operators use the IP address to track your movements on the network.  The data helps them understand peak usage times, they type of things being done on the network, and helps them detect virus/security issues.  The IP address can also be used by website owners for similar things, including finding your real identity.  Consider this when using free wireless hotspots, public computers, or a friends network.

When you use the internet at home or on a public computer, you leave “bread crumbs” to your identity.  This raises a lot of questions, such as whether the first amendment right regarding freedom of speech applies to intenet postings, whether this data is sensitive, and whether the data should be kept private.

What are your thoughts on this?  Feel free to comment.