One couple in the United States is suing an internet mapping firm for $75,000 after years of so-called “digital hell”.
IP addresses, which are used to connect devices to the internet, are being matched to physical locations by a mapping firm called MaxMind. The firm said that these were not meant to be precise.
James Arnold and his wife Theresa say that their home became the position for more than 600 million addresses. They also say that this lead people to believe that many crimes were committed at the property.
“The first week after the Arnolds moved in, two deputies from the Butler County Sheriff’s Department came to the residence looking for a stolen truck. This scenario repeated itself countless times over the next five years,” documents filed with a Kansas court read.
James and Theresa also complained that they have been disturbed at all hours by “local, state or federal officials looking for a runaway child or a missing person, or evidence of a computer fraud, or call of an attempted suicide”.
This problem finally came to light in April, after a TV network and website called Fusion did an investigation which reported that the property owner Joyce Taylor and her tenants had been accused of being “identity thieves, spammers, scammers and fraudsters”.
IP addresses can be used for identification of certain houses but they can also be imprecise. Sometimes, IP address can give us the information in which country a certain device can be found, and sometimes even that information is incorrect.
According to Fusion all the troubles were the result of IP mapping by MaxMind. The company had chosen Ms Taylor’s property as a default location for all the IP addresses that they could not locate more precisely. The house rented by the Arnolds in 2011 is placed near the geographical center of the country.
The farm in Kansas is near the geographical center of the USA
Since then, the Arnolds say that they have had a constant stream of people who have researched the IP addresses they believe to be behind a string of nefarious activities and all of them lead to the Arnolds’ home.
James and Theresa Arnold accuse MaxMind of “reckless and grossly negligent conduct” that has caused “great emotional distress, fear for their safety, and humiliation” and they have asked the Kansas district court to award the damages.
The company which caused all the trouble, MaxMind, said it was aware of the lawsuit but refused to give any comment on pending litigation.
MacMind’s founder Thomas Mather has previously said: “We have always advertised the database as determining the location down to a city or zip code level. To my knowledge, we have never claimed that our database could be used to locate a household.”
He also said that MaxMind has changed its default centre points to be in the middle of bodies of water.