IP address problem

IP address problem, IP geo-locating, IP location-shifting

If you want internet anonymity, you may have an IP address problem ?

IP address problem

Article first published 23-04-2011
During an internet surfing session the other day, I visited a web site www.usatoday.com and I was browsing through the home page. I was looking for something interesting to read, when suddenly, an advertisement caught my eye.
Like most people who spend a considerable amount of their time browsing through web sites, I have developed a natural immunity to advertisements. Somehow, no matter how hard a web site tries to make me notice and read an advertisement by designing and positioning it to 'blend' into their page content, my natural defences help me to spot and avoid them. So, why had I noticed and read this advertisement ?
I noticed it because it was advertising a special offer on "Beefburgers" in (wait for it) my local town.
I read the advertisement several times (just to make sure that I wasn't seeing things) and I checked the domain name in my browser's address bar - www.usatoday.com, (just to make sure that I wasn't on a spoofed web site). Having confirmed both, I began to consider the implications.
I quickly discounted the obvious - that the local Kebab shop is expanding their services to include world-wide delivery and was advertising on www.usatoday.com ?!
Governments, Police and various other specialist security organisations have been able to track the location of your IP address for some time, but it wasn't an easy process and may have involved obtaining the co-operation of your ISP and a Court Order.
Further, it's common knowledge that using geo-locating software, services
and techniques, web sites can trace the IP address of their web site visitors, but normally, they have only been able to trace
back to the'general' location of your IP address - usually the location of your ISP.
How had it been possible for the advertiser on a web site in America to locate my IP address so, precisely, and to do it, so, quickly, that they were able, once they knew my IP address location, to super-impose my town's name on to their advertisement - as the web page loaded ? I decided to see if I could find out.
I quickly discovered that their are new techniques, software and on-line services that allow web sites to track the IP address location of their visitor's computer to within (on average) 700 hundred metres of its actual location.
This IP address tracking technology is the type that an increasing number of popular web sites are using to enable their advertisers to pick and choose where they want their advertisements to be shown.
No longer do they need to search for big, wealthy companies operating in many Countries with massive advertising budgets.
This technology allows them to sell advertising to smaller businesses with far less money to spend because they can offer them the option
of restricting their advertisements to appear only on web pages delivered to computers with an IP address that is located in the area that their business operates - down to 700 hundred metres !
All of a sudden, it dawned on me - it might be the local kebab shop advertising on www.usatoday.com !
If, when visiting a web site or, sending an email for that matter, you do not want the owner of the web site or, recipient of the email, to know your IP address or, 'actual' location, there are measures that you can take to stop them from doing so.
Most tech-savvy readers know, that, using a virtual private network (VPN) connection, their computer can be allocated an IP address that makes it appear to be in a different place to its 'real' location. This is the technology that allows people to do the UK's National Lottery or, use the BBC iPlayer service from a foreign Country.
Well, how much (extra) profit is generated for the companies concerned in the IP address geo-locating business, will surely, dictate whether they decide to further extend this technology to allow it to identify VPN connections and restrict, stop or, charge their users for access to a web site, network or, web service.
The days of IP address location-shifting using a VPN may be numbered !
It seems that yet again, technological advances are being driven by the possibility of generating (more) profit and that, instead of working on the cure for some horrible disease - the world's brightest minds are busy trying to figure out how to get more people to click on those flippin' Google Ads !

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