Couple to sue IP location company after years of misidentification

12 Aug 2016

A couple in the US has been described as living in a ‘digital hell’ and now plans to sue an IP location company over an error that has led to 600m addresses being wrongly positioned over their home.

The IP location company that has found itself on the end of the couple’s lawsuit is MaxMind, which matches the IP addresses of devices with their physical location.

In the case of James and Theresa Arnold, however, a long-standing error has resulted in 600m devices being located right on their house, which happens to be located almost at the exact centre point of the US.

Future Human

According to Fusion, this has resulted in law enforcement and other organisations coming to their home to search for items deemed lost or stolen.

In their complaint, the Arnolds said that, regardless of the time of day, they would be visited 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”.

An investigation into what could be causing so many errors found that MaxMind chose their location as the default location if the device could not be accurately located.

The couple now plans to sue the company for $75,000, with estimations that it will be at least a year before the case goes to trial.

‘Great emotional distress’

According to the court documents filed by the couple’s lawyer: “Threats began to be made against the plaintiffs by individuals who were convinced that the perpetrator of internet scamming lived at the residence.

“State investigators – convinced that the plaintiffs had been involved in an identity theft – came to the residence to take pictures of assets.”

It went on to accuse MaxMind of engaging in “reckless and grossly negligent conduct” resulting in “great emotional distress, fear for [the couple’s] safety, and humiliation”.

Speaking previously, MaxMind’s founder Thomas Mather said about the couple’s complaints: “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.”

Locations on map image via Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic