Unless the user hides it, all websites and platforms he visits will have access to his IP address—just Google “what is my IP” to verify this. Thousands of pages will appear with the promise of showing every digit of your IP in seconds. And worst of all, some will even offer to reveal more details about this virtual address.
The problem with that? Your privacy and security may be at risk.
What is an IP address?
The acronym IP comes from Internet Protocol, the name given to the rules governing data traffic on the network. The IP address, in turn, is the code used to identify your device on the internet. This identification is important so that other devices and servers can recognize and exchange information with it.
The web pages you visit also have IP addresses. In a simplified version of things, these addresses serve as a means of establishing a connection between two devices or pages to exchange data.
Thus, being essential for the proper functioning of the network, it is easy to understand why your IP address is exposed to practically everyone. The question is what people can do with that information.
What IP reveals about you
As mentioned, your IP address is, in general terms, a number that identifies you on the internet, and as such, it can be used for a variety of purposes. In normal situations, it is responsible for making basic services, such as your internet browsing and streaming your favorite series on Netflix.
However, when in the hands of the wrong people, IP can be used in other ways, causing everything from minor inconveniences to more serious problems. Below are some possibilities.
1 – Personalized Spam
One of the modern marketing strategies is to keep trackers on certain web pages to record your IP and send ads based on your browsing. So, if you read many articles about a particular band, commercials aimed at that group or even that particular style of music will likely be sent to your small screen.
2 – Geographic location
By searching for an IP address, it is possible to find out the city from which the user is accessing the network. With a little more dedication, it is not impossible for criminals to also find the real address of the user and monitor him through social networks to plan robberies or robberies.
3 – Geographic restrictions
Its geolocation also impacts the provision of some services on the network, such as streaming platforms. In possession of your IP address, many companies use this information to limit your access to certain content and pages. That’s why the Netflix catalog, for example, differs depending on your country.
4 – DoS or DDoS attacks
One of the worst problems that can occur with exposing your IP to strangers is DoS and DDoS attacks. For those who don’t know the terms, these attacks are used to prevent the user from accessing some network resources, such as certain pages or platforms. A common example of how this can happen is by bombing the IP address with server requests, which leaves it overloaded and unable to work normally.
How does IP tracking work?
To understand how IP tracing works, one must first keep in mind the general logic of the internet. Initially, devices and websites connect using their IPs, recognizing each other, so one knows where to send the information requested by the other. It is in this “mutual recognition” that IP tracking takes place.
For example, when visiting a page, your network sends a request with your IP address to the website’s server. Then, this server accepts the request, has access to your IP address, and, through it, forwards the response that was requested, that is, the information that makes up the website so that the user can view it.
With this, the page, the server, and the internet provider can relate your IP address to the website visited. Of these three, only your provider keeps a record of this relationship. But, in theory, any third party without any connection with the aforementioned poles does not have access to this data.
The problem occurs when your provider shares these logs with others. This is when IP tracking violates your privacy.
Cookies and online fingerprinting (fingerprinting)
Finally, a final clarification is in order. When it comes to online privacy, there is a huge amount of confusion about what cookies and online fingerprinting are and their relationship to IP addresses. Below is a brief explanation of each.
Cookies vs. IP Address
Cookies are small text files, generally stored in the browser, containing data about the user and their browsing activities. such as the IP address. Basically, there are two types of cookies, those of the visited websites, which help improve the user experience, and third-party cookies, also known as tracking cookies. The latter gathers data about your browsing and generally sells to marketing companies.
As they contain much more information about the user, cookies are potentially more dangerous than a mere IP address.
Online fingerprint vs. IP address
Fingerprinting (or “online fingerprinting”) is a tracking practice based on scripts that pages have in the background to collect various data about the user, such as browser type, time zone, and configuration preference. With this set of information, a “unique profile” of the user is created so that he can be identified on any platform he uses on the web, just by comparing this set of characteristics collected.
Unlike cookies, fingerprinting occurs surreptitiously, possibly exposing much more of your privacy. Therefore, it can also be more harmful than IP.