IP Address Location Databases, a Violation of User Privacy ?


With the latest situation created by NSA and their spying mission, the online privacy become an important aspect in our Internet Usage. Although some can say that only if you do bad things you fear for this, online privacy should still concern those who don't and never plan do to something stupid. The problem is that the data is traced and then stored, and if someday you learn something about an important person, or you want to do something that some people won't like, they might search trough your online history and what you did online to find facts about your life would put you in a bad light with the purpose of dropping the issue. Another problem is that this data, as it was shown by Edward Snowden, can be accessed by almost anyone who is somehow related to the NSA.

Getting back to public data that anyone can access, here comes the IP Address. While it is not that easy for someone to get the exact location based on your IP Address and find who you are, in most cases he can find out the city you live in. Is this a big issue ? In 99% of cases it is not an issue. Most websites are not interested in your location for other reason than marketing purposes: seeing where the most visitors are coming from to be able to provide better services. Website knowing your approximate location can also mean that when you go to a website you will be shown content relevant to your location without searching for it, for example weather websites, big online stores. But, there will be websites who can use your location to do things that many will consider bad, for example some websites might block your access to the website if you are located in a certain country or a certain state, based purely on their experience with past users from your location. This is considered discrimination and website owners should be charged for this. Websites can have different prices for people in different places ( based on the purchase power and average income ), that is also illegal in most countries.

Despite there are legal actions against those type of websites who do such kind of things, the real problem here is if a bad intended person can do harm to you if he knows your IP Address. Well, since most websites keep this data private, if you visit a trap site building only for this purpose, he can watch your actions without you being aware of this. For example he gives you a link to an online survey and he ask you do complete it. You might not be aware but the survey is a trap site and he gets the results associated with your IP Address. I mean, you should not complete online surveys providing sensitive data unless you trust the source, but more creative guys can find ways to trick you into this.

Maybe the question that anyone have is if someone can find you and "meet you" in person starting only from your IP Address. If the creativity on one side is at a certain level, and the ignorance is on the other side, then yes. There are public databases who shows the city an IP Address if from, and the Internet Service Provider. He might get some more data about you, maybe a photo or some habbits. If he have those the search might not be that hard and he can find you ultimately by associating data from phone books for example. If he knows your name then it will be much easier. However, there are many people who gives their information away on the Internet. Should you be scared of someone finding where you live ? Why would someone want to get to your house instead of emailing or phoning you before ? Journalists can be easily found and they are exposing others on a daily basis. If you really want to write something bad on the Internet about some mob boss you should know this and post anonymously ( there are many tools to hide your tracks on the internet ).

What do you think about this ? Do you have any examples of situations when the city - IP Address association can really harm someone ?

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