The computers and internet contain vast amounts of information. People have different levels of proficiency in understanding computer terminologies. In fact, most people only know a particular word simply because they are using it. They don’t know what it really means.
Take an IP address as an example. It is an essential part of the online browsing experience but only a few people know something about it. What’s even scarier is that, a lot of people do not know the type of information an IP address can reveal.
What is an IP address? It is a unique online identifier and every computer has an assigned IP address. Similar to home’s street addresses, the IP address is used to identify network computers. It helps in determining the flow of traffic between computers.
The standard format of an IP address contains 4 individual values separated by a period: “192.168.0.15”. Values on the IP address can range from 0 to 255. Typically, a local IP address starts with either “192.168” or “10.0”.
When a computer already has its own local IP address, people from the outside world cannot access it. It is the routers that act as bridges, which connect individual computers to a specific internet provider. Because of this, IP addresses can also tell something about the personality of an individual depending on the kind of websites he had visited.
With the above mentioned restrictions, what kinds of information are shared with IP addresses?
Typically, the most personal information that could be shared with an IP address is “geolocation”. What’s good is when a computer is connected to a local network and the network’s local IP address is being used, the computer’s precise location will not be shared.
As an example, an individual can send an email message from his own home and someone may know the actual city from where the email was sent. Don’t worry because it may be the only information he can get and any other information, he is more likely unable to access.
He may probably see the ISP information but it does not give the actual street address. Only the router’s general geolocation data can be seen.
In some cases where there’s nothing to worry about sharing much more information because of the generalized location, onlookers can manage to take a peek on a person’s online activity with the associated IP address. From there, they can put together lots of information from that particular person who is currently accessing the internet using that IP address.
Because of this, the OPC (Canadian Privacy Commissioner’s Office) conducted a research to see what type of information they can get from using their own network’s IP address. Using an internet search engine, they will look for details about particular people inside their network who had browsed the internet.
Some of the services and sites visited by people using OPC’s IP address include:
- Legal advice on personal injury litigation and insurance law
- Wikipedia entry’s revision history
- A particular religious group
- Information about online photo sharing
- Fitness topics
A second experiment was done by the group wherein they have to look for the IP address of that particular person who did the editing of an entry in Wikipedia and enters that IP address to an internet search engine. Search results show all the information about that person’s online activity ranging from editing various Wikipedia entries to visiting online message boards regarding sexual preferences.
According to the report submitted after conducting the research, it is easy to get a glimpse of the kind of personality a person portrays based on his online activities without any prior judicial authorization.
If this experiment is applied to various industries, then a BPO employer can easily draw out impressions about people who are currently browsing the internet during work hours. Internet service providers can also figure out information about their subscribers’ online activities and even advertising networks can maximize their strategies by simply associating a specific IP address with various online activities for a while.
But wait, there’s more than just discovering information. It was already used by US authorities in a case to identify a person responsible for sending harassment emails.
By contacting the ISP, they were able to receive the exact locations of the sent emails. FBI found out that most of the emails were sent in different hotels and they managed to track a common name from all the guest lists of these hotels. Afterwards, the FBI did some investigations on the email account of that person.
It’s possible to easily get details associated with a particular IP address, but it takes time and effort to do the much needed actions after.
With all the above-mentioned information, people must already know the answer to the question of what is an IP address all about.