From a technical point of view, your IP address is an indicator of your geolocation. However, in reality, the process of locating someone through an IP address is not very accurate. Unlike in the movies where geolocation is a magic spell, actual geolocating is much harder. It is convenient to believe that any techie expert can draw up the personal details of any person through an IP address. However, it does not work like that at all in real life.
What Does Your IP Address Actually Reveal About You?
What Exactly is an IP Address?
First of all, I must state that we are discussing public (external) IP addresses here. These are the ones that your ISP issues to you in order for you to browse the web. Private (internal) IP addresses, on the other hand, are released by your router to facilitate its communication with the various devices you have connected to it.
When you go online, the websites you visit and apps you use see your public IP address and not the private IP.
IP addresses are basically the unique identification code for your internet device. They are used to create a unique identity for you online and associate all services with the same. So, when you are shopping online, downloading some file, or simply chatting, you need your IP address in order to receive and send data.
VPNs or Virtual Private Networks are used to mask IP addresses such that the real location of the user cannot be identified. However, this does not mean they do not have an IP address. It just means that they are concealing their real IP address behind that of the VPN server they’re connected to. All in all, it’s always best to hide your IP whenever you go online for a number of reasons.
Will IP Checkers Retain my IP Address?
IP address keepers usually maintain a database of IP addresses. Netblocks are chunks of IP addresses pooled together. These can be made publicly available as and when required. However, finding the actual individuals behind each IP address is only possible under a specific condition.
The IP address holder needs to have registered on a netblock. In case you did not register for any such thing, your ISP can also reveal your country. But that does not mean you can be personally identified.
With that in mind, it is also important to note that ISPs have been made to divulge user addresses under court order. In specific situations, prosecutors can be sanctioned with a subpoena to use your ISP to geolocate you.
How Accurate Can IP Checkers Be?
GeoIP accuracy is subject to a number of factors. Things like updated records, the location of storage, the manner of storage, user history etc. impact the accuracy of data. In cases where IP addresses are stored beyond national political borders, geoblocking can prove futile. If the record is old, it can also lead to misplaced and inaccurate IP addresses. So, there are a lot of factors you need to consider before using such data accurately.
Is It Possible My IP Address Can Give Me Access to Other Data?
A lot of GeoIP services are provided by third-parties. These organizations can use fingerprinting to associate other data with you. Basically, fingerprinting revolves around identifying and validating your digital fingerprint with your online activity. So, browser history and other online activities can be used here. However, unless your IP address explicitly carries your name with it, a website cannot know your personal identity.
With that said, GeoIP serves the purpose of marketers and other persons interested in your location. They can use this info to advertise products and content as per the general regional preferences and mostly, GeoIP suffices here.
Is it Possible to Find My Exact Location?
It is not possible to locate your exact location like street and house number through your IP address. However, IP addresses can provide a fairly accurate location of your position. It can narrow down to a city or even some miles from your actual location. Also, this can be done almost instantaneously but the person trying to locate you must have a decent technical skillset.
To facilitate this effort, a very specific tool called a Geolocation software is used. It is not very different from any high-stakes spy thriller you might have seen, although it is much less dramatic. If you are curious about the general process for geolocating individuals, here’s an overview.
How They Can Find Us
Generally speaking, individuals and businesses make use of geolocation services. There are paid and free versions of these services, but the paid ones are naturally more accurate and can serve better. Such services usually have access to a variety of databases which they use to perform geolocating activities.
One of the most common databases for geolocation services is Regional Internet Registries. These registries are managed by large government organizations and are focused on specific regions globally. For North America, the American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN) serves as the primary internet registry.
However, this is only the beginning of the search. There is a lot of additional data mining involved to generate a reasonably accurate geolocation for any given individual. How quickly the location can be identified is subject to the power of the devices and the accuracy of the data. Also, how effectively the data is mined plays a big role.
A common method used to identify IP addresses is by identifying common areas where they appear. So, for example, if you shop online regularly through your original IP address, then you leave a digital footprint there. This can be used to substantiate the general geolocation information that the third-party has on you. The same works for all local news feed and navigation services.
Certain ISPs also have collaborations with database keepers to enable more accurate geolocation services. Usually, this is done to help companies target their consumers and also provide data for sophisticated analysis. The same process can also be used to spot trends by both business entities and government bodies. This sort of data mining helps them make accurate forecasts.
How Can You Hide Your IP Address?
GeoIP certainly has a number of advantages for all parties involved. However, it is also possible to misuse or abuse this same technology. If you are concerned about your online privacy, you can hide behind the IP of a VPN server. VPN services have networks of servers to hide your IP details when you go online. A VPN works by rerouting your traffic through its own servers so the website you visit will see the server’s address instead of your real IP address. Here is a detailed explanation of how VPNs work.