An Internet Protocol (IP) address is like a digital passport to the wonderful world of the web. Right now, this post is being written from this location on the internet: 2605:6000:e9c4:b700:304a:2f6c:23bc:3333. It’s not just a virtual address—it’s also tied to my specific physical geographical location. That is, unless I’m using a VPN. Can you figure out where I am? This is determined by the ISP provider. you can Google “What is My IP Address” to find out what your IP address is.

When it comes to information security, the web can sometimes be a big, scary place. Some people worry that their IP address will reveal personally identifiable information (Pii) about them. Not necessarily so. An IP address can tell someone where you live down to a zip code level of detail, but not as specifically as a street number or telephone directory. It is rare for an individual to need or want your IP address, but there are ways for them to get it. Anyone you exchange email with could find yours out.

How does IP geolocation work?

An IP address serves two principal functions: host or network interface identification and location addressing. IP addresses are part of TCP/IP, the protocols networks speak to facilitate our online experience. Websites and networks need to know your IP address—in the digital way computers do. An (IP address) is a numerical label assigned to each device connected to a computer network that uses the Internet Protocol for communication.

What is IP data used for?

IP Intelligence technology is used across industries for a range of applications from content localization to ad targeting to fraud prevention. Companies can now leverage a single IP geolocation solution to accomplish numerous online initiatives, whether the goal is to create an instant connection with a first-time site visitor; measure engagement with an online audience; ensure that content is in the right hands; or shore up online security measures.

When it comes to ad targeting, IP targeting has some advantages over cookie-based retargeting, one of the more common ways advertisers reach target audiences. Ever see the same ad pop up on a variety of different websites you visit and wonder how they knew you searched for diapers or dog food? You can thank this type of cookie-based targeting. While cookie retargeting is timely, specific, and behavior-based, there are some drawbacks that can be solved with IP Targeting. And it’s not quite as creepy.

IP Targeting uses offline data, which is verified and drastically reduces the potential of non-human bot traffic. IP Targeting essentially takes the traditional direct mail approach and matches home and business postal addresses to computer/device IP addresses. Imagine a digital postal worker delivering personalized messages to your home laptop or business desktop. Loyalty data in CRM systems and rented prospect data can be matched to individuals’ IP addresses to enable one-to-one marketing with scale and precision.

Is Google under fire in the EU for misusing IP data?

In short, yes. Behavioral and demographic ad targeting has proven far more controversial in recent months, especially after concerns and revelations emerged about companies like Cambridge Analytica, who used the technology to target voter population segments, and Facebook who employed questionable ad targeting practices many critics say enabled illegal discrimination. 

In a recent complaint, filed by a cofounder of Mozilla and the executive director of the U.K.’s Open Rights Group, argued that real-time ad placement software violates the law by sharing people’s personal data—including what sites they’re accessing; information about their devices; their locations or IP addresses; and market segment identifiers with potentially hundreds of companies involved in bidding on ads. That data is exposed to advertisers in the process of a “bid request,” when advertisers bid on the right to show ads to users in web page slots to users based on behavioral data about them and the pages they’re visiting.

Google’s Gmail product has come under fire recently for phishing attempts, malicious emails and attachments, and IP addresses which have been linked to fraudulent or criminal activity have been detected via machine learning, even if IP addresses have previously been placed on a list of IPs which are believed to be legitimate and trustworthy.

The GSuite alert center, launched in beta in September, has been designed to bring security alerts and notifications together under one interface. While it is estimated that less than 0.1 percent of Google Account users are subject to such attacks, with politics worldwide hanging on a tightrope and evidence of constant tampering in events such as elections, the feature is more important than ever.

Weighing the pros and cons of IP targeting, it’s safe to say we are being tracked in everything we do online, whether by cookies or TCP/IP protocol, our privacy is experiencing a massive digital transformation.

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