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Countless websites are served by webserver software (Apache, nginx, etc.) which logs the source IP address of every web page visit. The GDPR considers an IP address "personal data" that is subject to the GDPR. The GDPR requires consent of the subject for collection or storage of personal data (in this case, IP addresses in a log file). How is a website owner supposed to acquire consent by way of the website if the very act of visiting the website page to acquire consent records the "personal data" about which consent is being granted?

Obviously, the option is available to website owners to configure their webservers not to log IP addresses, but that has security implications. Do these security concerns suffice to absolve a website owner from requiring consent to log IP addresses? Is a prominent notice (on every page, until dismissed) sufficient?

How is the GDPR supposed to be interpreted with respect to the extremely common and prevalant practice of IP address logging?

(I have read Would GDPR affect my own personal website? and the answers at the time of this writing are not sufficiently satisfactory. Article 6, paragraph 1 does not make the question of automatic IP address logging without explicit consent clearly acceptable or not. http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/HTML/?uri=CELEX:32016R0679&from=EN )

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    Possible duplicate of Would GDPR affect my own personal website? – SJuan76 May 17 '18 at 22:30
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    I would ask even a stronger question - does merely having a website necessitate asking for consent from EU visitors? From GDPR: ‘processing’ means any operation or set of operations which is performed on personal data or on sets of personal data, whether or not by automated means, such as collection, recording, organisation, structuring, storage, adaptation or alteration, retrieval, consultation, use, disclosure by transmission, dissemination or otherwise making available, alignment or combination, restriction, erasure or destruction;" And you need to use the IP to send back the response! – kozyr May 18 '18 at 0:38
  • I do not think this is a duplicate of Would GDPR affect my own personal website? That question asks about IP address logging on a personal website, and one of the upvoted answers is based on the fact that the site is personal. This question asks about IP logging for any website site - whether personal or not. – Free Radical May 19 '18 at 3:19
  • @kozyr. Your "stronger question is based upon the same misunderstanding as the OP - that the GDPR makes consent a mandatory requirement for all processing of personal data. This is simply not a correct understanding of the GDPR. – Free Radical May 19 '18 at 3:25
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In the question, you write:

The GDPR requires consent of the subject for collection or storage of personal data (in this case, IP addresses in a log file).

No, it does not.

To quote Miss Infogeek:
GDPR DOES NOT MAKE CONSENT A MANDATORY REQUIREMENT FOR ALL PROCESSING OF PERSONAL DATA.

Consent (Article 6 (1)a) is indeed one of conditions that can be used to comply with the GDPR requirement that processing must be lawful, but it is not the only condition available to the controller to ensure lawful processing – there are alternatives (before the list of conditions it says that "at least one of the following" must be satisfied).

All the conditions for lawfulness of processing are spelled out in Article 6 of the GDPR.

One of alternatives are Article 6 (1)f. It says says it is legal to process personal data if

processing is necessary for the purposes of the legitimate interests pursued by the controller or by a third party, except where such interests are overridden by the interests or fundamental rights and freedoms of the data subject which require protection of personal data, in particular where the data subject is a child. (my emphasis)

As noted in the question, logging IP addresses for the purpose of security is an extremely widespread practice. It is a legitimate interest to comply with standard security practices. It is the default, and most (all?) web-sites do this.

I.e. it is legal to do this without consent (if this is not the case, I am pretty sure the outcry had been heard all over the Internet by now).

  • Thank you for this answer. It hinges on IP address logging being "for the purpose of a legitimate interest", but I think I am comfortable assuming that. – Pistos May 19 '18 at 5:47
  • I will, but I'll give it time to see if anyone else has anything else to add. – Pistos May 19 '18 at 19:40
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    "It is extremely hard, if you are not law enforcement, to connect an IP-address to a natural person" it really does not matter if it's hard or easy to connect IP to natural person. As long as you can do that this is personal data. If you really are storing IP for security practices then this complies with GDPR; but if you store IP for e.g. geolocation tracking or serving geolocalized ads then (without consent) it's not. – Marian Paździoch May 21 '18 at 10:50
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    @MarianPaździoch. No, you do not have to explicitly do something to enable security logging. When you first set up Apache, it logs IP-addresses by default. And it does this for security purposes (that's what it says in the manual). In fact, you need to have some knowledge about Apache to turn this logging off. When you first set up a web-site, it does not send IP-addresses to Google (or any other external website by default). Google makes it very easy for you to add the tracking JavaScript to your site, but you have to do this. – Free Radical May 21 '18 at 13:11
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    @MarianPaździoch part of the misunderstanding here is that having a blog page on github is not setting up a website as Free Radical is using the term; it's using an existing website, in this case github, to host your blog. In that case, you have no control over the web server, its logging configuration, or its data collection and processing practices. – phoog May 25 '18 at 2:20
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The GDPR considers an IP address "personal data" that is subject to the GDPR.

That seems to be a common misconception.

From GDPR: 'Personal data’ means any information relating to an identified or identifiable natural person (‘data subject’). An 'identifiable natural person' is one who can be identified, directly or indirectly, in particular by reference to an identifier such as a name, an identification number, location data, an online identifier or to one or more factors specific to the physical, physiological, genetic, mental, economic, cultural or social identity of that natural person.

In a particular set of circumstances, can you identify natural persons by using IP addresses and other data, or IP addresses alone? If you can't, then the IP addresses being collected in those circumstances are not personal data.

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