To communicate with devices on a network, it’s necessary to know their virtual locations; that is where Internet Protocol (IP) addresses come into play.
IP addresses do provide some general geographic data; however, this doesn’t give enough detail to pin point your actual location; that’s why worrying about this shouldn’t be top of your priority list if your main concern is online privacy.
1. They are used for security
IP addresses are unique identifiers assigned to every device connected to the internet, including computers, laptops, mobile phones, tablets and routers. IP addresses play an essential part in providing a way for distinguishing among different devices and networks connected online.
Your IP address is a numerical identifier used by computers and devices to communicate, as well as to identify websites. Each webpage receives its own unique IP address for two-way communication between devices and websites.
Dependent upon the website, it may be possible for you to change your IP address at any time. Doing so immediately may help protect yourself against security threats.
Hackers could exploit your IP to gain entry to your computer, log into accounts you use, phish your passwords or steal personal information from you.
Your IP address can also be used to track you as you navigate the internet – this practice, known as employee tracking, may not be illegal but could become irritating if privacy concerns exist at work.
Websites can store your IP address by recording every request made from an IP address in their server logs. Older data will eventually be removed to make room for new requests.
The length of time that websites keep your IP address is dependent upon multiple factors, including frequency of site usage. IP logs are kept on a schedule so that older data can be periodically deleted from them.
Many websites keep your IP address for security purposes to help prevent identity theft, hacking and online stalking.
Sites may use your IP address to send offers specifically targeted toward your location, which could be particularly helpful if you need local deals or help during an emergency situation.
Tracking IP addresses can also be useful to law enforcement and government agencies that need to verify whether you are engaging in illegal activities. For instance, downloading copyrighted music or child pornographic files could help law enforcement locate those responsible and apprehend any criminals responsible.
2. They are used for marketing
Websites are online platforms made up of interlinked web pages linked under one domain name and managed by individuals, businesses or organizations for various reasons.
At its core, websites serve an integral purpose in providing an interactive online presence for businesses or individuals – for instance corporate websites, online stores and blogs are examples.
Web hosting providers also provide website hosting services for businesses seeking to establish themselves online.
An unexpected but fascinating use for IP addresses is marketing. Advertising agencies frequently leverage them to track which ads you click on and deliver targeted offers based on browsing habits – an effective way of targeting online shopping experiences and encouraging repeat purchases from their stores. This process involves sophisticated software as well as knowledge of how your IP works; to gain a fuller picture, contact your ISP or review the privacy settings on your account for more details on their tracking practices.
3. They are used for tracking
Your IP address is a number that uniquely identifies you on the Internet, assigned by your Internet service provider (ISP) and changing whenever you switch networks or devices. Websites can see this IP address when you visit them, which allows them to track you and customize content based on it.
There may be legal justification for websites to store your IP address, including traffic monitoring and marketing purposes; however, these companies could use it without your knowledge to build up a profile of you and build upon this profile over time.
This can be accomplished in various ways, from using cookies to track your web activity to tracking mouse movements – which is more difficult to prevent due to websites’ sophisticated methods for tracking these elements of movement and speed of action.
Use of a VPN or proxy can provide protection from others on the network who might try to track you or spy on you.
Your IP can also be protected from other network users by not sharing or permitting access to your device with them. This is particularly important when sharing it with children or people with limited tech skills who may be more vulnerable to being tracked by unwanted parties.
Law enforcement typically does not have access to your IP address unless you’ve committed a serious offense online – for example selling illegal goods or distributing pornographic materials – which would prompt police authorities to demand information from their ISP provider.
If you have been the victim of fraud, scam, or identity theft, IP addresses used to commit the crimes may help law enforcement identify you and prosecute those responsible. In certain cases, filing a court claim to force your ISP to provide it can also force them to do so.
4. They are used for geo-restrictions
Every device connected to the internet – from computers and laptops to tablets and smartphones – has an IP address. This unique number identifies where each device sits within a network and allows computers and websites to recognize each other as well as advertising networks to track devices that may have an interest in their products.
Each IP address tells its own tale; in terms of geo-restriction, IP addresses convey where you live and which content is available in your region, enabling businesses to target advertisements and website content more precisely.
Though not having access to some of your favorite sites may be frustrating, there are ways around this barrier. A VPN provides one such method; it masks your real IP and replaces it with one from somewhere else so your browser thinks you are browsing from that location instead.
An alternative option is using a proxy server, which will hide your IP address from websites you visit and allow access without restriction or limitation. This method is especially helpful when traveling and needing to view sites blocked in certain countries or cities.
To select the ideal VPN, search for services offering both high speeds and privacy protection. Some providers even provide free trials so you can try them before making your final decision.
Geo-restrictions are used for licensing deals between media properties or countries’ legal systems, but can also be employed for censorship purposes. China’s Great Firewall blocks many foreign websites from reaching Chinese users while other authoritarian nations censor online content they deem illegal. To effectively avoid geo-restrictions and counter them effectively is to gain an understanding of their uses as well as ways of circumventing them.