The looming shortage of IPv4 addresses, and the need to start using IPv6 addresses, is a frequent topic these days, and it was addressed this week at an EU ministerial conference in Nice, France, a conference organised as part of the French presidency of the EU.The conference was told there needs to be an orderly transition to IPv6 with a recent policy paper from the European Commission suggesting that by 2010, at least 25 per cent of internet addresses in Europe should be updated to IPv6.And as more people connect to the internet, more objects and gadgets – everything from refrigerators to military equipment – the pool of IPv4 addresses will run out between 2010 and 2011.However the EC realises there are problems involved in the transition with routing machines that allow computers to communicate with one another must be replaced. While not a significant cost, it is still a cost. A second issue, and more importantly, the change to IPv6 could make IP addresses look much more like private data. Today, the same computer can have several IP addresses, one for each connection to the Internet.”In the new environment of the IPv6, traceability of computers and objects of individuals will increase,” said Peter Hustinx, European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS), speaking to EurActiv at the Nice conference. “In many circumstances IP addresses are already personal data, both when they are fix and when they are dynamic for the simple reason that ISPs have enough information to relate data to an identifiable person. With IPv6 capacity for identification and profiling will increase. If there is collection of personal data we need to make sure that is for legitimate reasons and that safeguards apply.”In its Communication on IPv6, the European Commission recognises the potential risks posed by the new protocol and committed itself to “monitor the privacy and security implications of widespread IPv6 deployment, in particular through consultation with stakeholders such as data protection authorities or law enforcement” Hustinx continued.The EurActiv article on which the above information was sourced is available from www.euractiv.com/en/infosociety/eu-warns-digital-gap-ip-numbers-dry/article-176127.The website for the “Internet of the Future” Ministerial Conference is available here.A Communication from The Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions titled Advancing The Internet: Action Plan for the deployment of Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6) in Europe is available here.