Online privacy is a hot button issue today. We are all used to being bombarded with advice on what we need to do to secure ourselves on the internet. But while most of the advice today concerns the data we share willingly, lots of people overlook the importance of a piece of data that is shared automatically on our behalf: our IP address.
Is it time to start worrying more about who can see our IP address and what they might want to do with that information?
What Does Your IP Address Show?
The information your IP address gives away might seem fairly innocuous at first. It mostly just tells someone about your general location and your internet service provider. However, your IP address can be associated with you as an individual. This way, it forms part of a wider effort to track you while you are using the internet. This alone should convince you that it is worth at least thinking about who can see your IP address and what they might do with that information.
Note that while it is possible to ultimately trace an IP address back to a physical location, getting an exact address is not quite as easy as simply typing the IP into an online tool.
Who Wants to Know Your IP Address?
Whether anyone actually wants to know your IP address is actually a secondary concern. The real issue is how easy it is to find it. Whenever you connect to an internet server, be it for the Netflix app or for The New York Times website, your device needs to reveal its IP address to the server.
Unless you are taking specific steps to prevent the server from seeing your real IP address, any online service you connect to will know your IP address.
That’s not to say that anyone collecting your IP address is doing so nefariously – there are many legitimate reasons for websites and online services to track IP addresses. However, if you are serious about online privacy, you should consider hiding your IP address.
Why Should You Hide Your IP Address?
There are multiple reasons why someone might want to hide or obscure that IP address. Contrary to what some people would have you believe, it is not just criminals who might want to exercise caution. In fact, there are good reasons for all of us to be at least a little bit more paranoid about our IP addresses and who we share them with.
Disguising an IP address is easy: VPNs and proxies make it simple for anyone to change their IP address as they need while keeping their actual IP address hidden. For more information visit Smartproxy.
Send and Receive Files Anonymously
A VPN or proxy used to be an essential piece of kit if you wanted to illegally download files. However, there are many other people who need to send and receive files anonymously. In particular, journalists need to be able to exchange information securely with their sources. If a journalist is supplied with a digital file by someone who is disclosing their IP address, it could ultimately be traced back to them with potentially deadly consequences.
Anyone who needs to be able to reliably send and receive files without revealing their location or identity will want to disguise their IP address.
Circumvent Region Blocking
Limiting content to certain regions is a relatively common thing now. The most familiar example to most people is Netflix. If you have ever tried to use a VPN or proxy to access the Netflix library of another country, you have no doubt found that success is short-lived. For determined services, detecting and blocking users who are altering their IP addresses is becoming standard practice.
However, with most websites that lock their content by region, a VPN or proxy is enough to bypass their measures.
Avoid Government Surveillance
In some countries, the surveillance of people’s online activities is routine. The potential consequences for doing things online, or even attempting to do something online that you are not supposed to can be severe. For a law enforcement agency or government, it is very easy to trace an IP address back to a specific physical location.
Avoid Private Surveillance
If only it were just intrusive governments who wanted to track us while we used the internet. There is now a plethora of private businesses that go to considerable lengths to track both their own users and, in many cases, even non-users if they think they can get away with it.
Connecting to websites via a VPN or proxy will obscure your IP address, and make it harder for services to build a profile of you. It will not make it impossible for them to do so, but it will put a barrier in their way.
If you are complacent about your IP address, you are not alone. But while this complacency is common, it’s not a good idea. Your IP address doesn’t appear to say much about you but using a VPN or proxy in order to take control of your IP address will definitely improve your online privacy. With so many people looking to track our online activities, being paranoid about your IP address is starting to make a lot of sense.