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Can Websites See Your Physical Location? – HowToGeek
Websites you access can determine your physical geographical location in a few ways. Your IP address reveals your general area—unless you use a VPN. Websites can also ask for a more precise location.
What Your IP Address Tells Websites
Your internet service provider gives you a public IP address. All the devices on your home network share that IP address, and your address is unique on the internet.
When you connect to a website, that website then sees your IP address. Your computer connects to the website’s IP address, and the website sends data back to your IP address. Packets are transmitted through network routers, and the IP address on those packets tells the routers where they need to go.
However, websites can’t trace that unique IP address to your physical home or business address. Instead, websites can tie your IP address to your internet service provider, city, region, and even possibly your ZIP code. This is why you see ads for local businesses in your area online, for example.
For instance, if you go to a website like this IP Location Finder, you’ll see that the website can use your IP address to determine the name of your internet service provider, along with your local city, region, and country.
But that’s all the information websites can get. They don’t know your physical address within that city or region.
While this usually works well, it isn’t perfect. Websites may sometimes think your home IP address is in a different city from the one you live in, for example.
Websites Can Ask for Your Precise Location
Websites can sometimes see your precise physical location, but they have to ask you first. When a website asks for your location, modern web browsers show a permission prompt.
For example, a weather website may want to show you the weather down to your precise location, or a retail store’s website might want to show you all its nearby stores and their precise distance from your location. A mapping website could use your physical location to provide navigation directions and so on.
When a website wants this access, you’ll see a prompt in your browser asking for it. If you give the website permanent access to your location, it can always see your location without having to ask again whenever you load the website in your browser.
To check which websites can see your location, you’ll need to check your browser’s settings. For example, in Chrome, click Menu > Settings > Site Settings > Location. You’ll see a list of websites that are allowed to see your location under the “Allow” heading.
You’ll also see a placemark indicator in Chrome’s address bar when a website has accessed your location. Other browsers work similarly, providing a visual indication that this has occurred on the current page.
How Your Devices Can Find Your Precise Location
If you use a phone or tablet with a built-in GPS radio, your precise location is determined using GPS, and then provided to the website. That’s how it works with location services in apps on iPhone, iPad, Android, and even some Windows 10 tablets.
But what if you’re just using a computer? Well, your device can use Wi-Fi-based location services. By scanning for a list of nearby Wi-Fi networks and their relative signal strengths, your precise location can be estimated and then provided to the website if you choose to allow it. This same feature is used on mobile platforms when there isn’t a solid GPS signal.
And what if you’re using a computer without a Wi-Fi radio—in other words, just a PC plugged into an Ethernet cable? In this scenario, you won’t be able to give a precise physical location to a website. If you try, you’ll just end up providing a more general location based on your IP address—likely just the city or area you live in.
Big Data and Cross-referencing Location Information
By the way, it’s technically possible for websites and advertising networks to cross-reference data. They might be able to tie your IP address to a physical address, for example.
For instance, let’s say that you have multiple devices on your network, and they all share a single IP address—the usual situation. Now, let’s say one device on the network goes to a particular website, which we’ll call “ExampleCorp, ” and gives it access to your precise location. ExampleCorp now knows the current physical address associated with the IP address.
Now, let’s say that you head to the ExampleCorp on another device and deny it access to your precise location. ExampleCorp’s website may not act like it has your precise location. However, ExampleCorp knows your IP address, and it knows that the IP address was tied to a specific location.
We don’t know how many companies are tying this data together in this fashion. However, some websites and advertising tracking networks likely are. It’s certainly possible with the technology they have.
VPNs and Hiding Your Location
If you really want to hide your physical location from a website, you can use a VPN (virtual private network) Or, for additional privacy at the cost of speed, use Tor.
When you access a website through a VPN, you connect directly to the VPN server, and the VPN server connects to the website on your behalf. It functions as a middleman, passing traffic back and forth.
So, when you access a website through a VPN, the website will see that VPN’s IP address, but it won’t know your IP address. This is how VPNs allow you to bypass geographical restrictions on the web. If a website or streaming service is only available in the U. K. and you’re in the U. S., you can connect to a U. -based VPN and access the website. After all, the website thinks you’re connecting from the VPN’s address in the U. K.
Update: Note that, if you’re connected to a VPN and give a website permission to see your physical location in your web browser, that website may be able to see your real location. Your web browser will still be able to determine your location from nearby Wi-Fi access points (if it has a Wi-Fi radio) or GPS (if your browser is running on a device with built-in GPS hardware) and report it to the website. This is only the case if you give the website access to see your location—if not, the website will have to go by your IP address, which will appear to be the VPN’s IP address.
RELATED: What Is a VPN, and Why Would I Need One?
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Can I Be Tracked by my IP Address – WhatIsMyIP.com®
Is it feasible to track my IP address if known by others?
Someone has my IP address, can they find me?
When you connect to the internet through your Internet Service Provider(ISP), they assign an IP address. Your IP address is similar to your mailing address, but for your computer, on the internet. While the IP address used to route internet traffic to your computer it does not reveal your location. If someone was able to get your IP address they could learn a bit about your internet service, such as which provider you use to connect to the internet, but they really can’t locate you, your home, or your office.
In some circumstances they may locate the city you are in, or perhaps a nearby city, but they will not have your physical address. Once they trace you back to your ISP they will lose your trail. While strangers may not be able to find you, your ISP knows where you are. ISPs will generally go to great lengths to protect you and your privacy but they do keep logs of your connections.
One big exception involving law enforcement. If you were to participate in illegal activities then a law enforcement agency can get a court order and submit it to your ISP to request your information. Obviously, easily finding you with law enforcement involved.
In the end, the simple answer is no, that you are unable to track my IP address. If someone was to get your IP address they can not find you. There are other ways you can be located but this isn’t one of them. Posting your name and town online via social media, more likely tracked, than by your IP address.
How Long Does Your ISP Store IP-Address Logs? – TorrentFreak
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The ongoing avalanche of mass-BitTorrent lawsuits reveal that IP-addresses can get people into a heap of trouble and it’s not unusual for Internet subscribers to be wrongfully accused of sharing copyrighted material. This begs the question, for how long are these IP-addresses stored? To find out, TorrentFreak asked some of the largest Internet providers in the US about their logging practices.
Currently there are no mandatory data retention laws in the United States. Unlike in Europe, Internet providers are not required to track IP-address assignments so these can be linked to specific subscriber accounts.
The question is, for how long will this remain the case, especially considering SOPA author Lamar Smith’s introduction of a new bill last year. Under his Protecting Children From Internet Pornographers Act, ISPs will be required to keep IP-address logs for a minimum of a year.
For now, however, no logs are required by law.
Earlier this week the CEO of Sonic called on fellow ISPs to protect the privacy of subscribers and purge logs after two weeks like his company does. One of the reasons cited was the massive amount of civil subpoenas that are, ironically enough, often sent by “Internet pornographers” in mass-BitTorrent lawsuits.
A refreshing stance, and one that makes users of other providers curious about the logging practices of their ISPs. Unfortunately, nearly all providers are very secretive about their data retention policies. Unlike VPN providers, all admit to logging IP-addresses, but how long they retain them remains a mystery.
In an attempt to find out more, TorrentFreak contacted several large ISPs with the seemingly simple question; How long does “company X” store IP-address assignment logs? Our findings are detailed below.
Those who value their privacy and hide their IP-address can of course always sign up with a VPN provider, one that doesn’t keep logs.
Time Warner Cable
Time Warner informed us that they store IP-address logs for up to 6 months.
Interestingly, the company is the only ISP we contacted that also posts information regarding its data retention on its website.
Comcast did not respond to our inquiries but has mentioned a 180 day retention policy for IP-addresses in BitTorrent-related court documents. On some occasions cases have been dismissed because logs were no longer available, meaning that alleged infringers could not be identified.
The 180 day policy is also mentioned in the Comcast Law Enforcement Handbook that leaked in 2007.
Verizon’s Privacy Office informed TorrentFreak by email that information about IP address assignments is retained for 18 months, the longest of all ISPs who responded to our request.
The Qwest/CenturyLink Law Enforcement Support Group informed us that IP-address logs are kept for approximately 1 year. As is also the case with other Internet Providers, Qwest/Century noted that personal details are only disclosed when the company receives a subpoena.
Cox failed to reply to our inquiry, but previously it has mentioned a 6 month retention policy for IP-address assignments in the press. In Cox’s “Lawful Intercept Worksheet” the company also mentions that logs are kept for “up to 6 months. ”
Update (2014): AT&T has never responded but this document posted by ACLU suggest that they retain data for about a year.
Update 2021: Charter currently retains IP-address logs for six months, unless it’s legally required to keep the data any longer.
The ISPs below were added after publication.
– DSL Extreme says they retain radius IP logs for two weeks on their DSL service.
– Teksavvy (Canada) keeps IP-assignment logs for two years 90 days.
– Eastlink (Canada) keeps IP-assignment logs for one year
– Start Communications (Canada) keeps IP-assignment logs for 90 days
As far as we are aware, this is the first overview of IP-logging practices of the largest U. S. ISPs. However, we need help to make the list more complete as not all the providers we contacted replied.
We encourage all readers to tweet, mail or phone their Internet providers to get a more complete overview, including ISPs not listed above. This is not limited to providers in the U. Feel free to forward us the answers so we can expand this article.
Frequently Asked Questions about do websites track ip addresses
Does IP address get tracked?
While the IP address used to route internet traffic to your computer it does not reveal your location. If someone was able to get your IP address they could learn a bit about your internet service, such as which provider you use to connect to the internet, but they really can’t locate you, your home, or your office.
How long do websites keep IP addresses?
However, a reader alerted us to an answer on Charter’s website where it states that residential IP-addresses are retained for one year. Update 2021: Charter currently retains IP-address logs for six months, unless it’s legally required to keep the data any longer. The ISPs below were added after publication.Jun 29, 2012
Is it illegal for websites to track your IP?
So is IP grabbing illegal? Nope. There’s no specific law preventing someone from targeting you with an IP grabbing tool. Your IP address is pretty much public information at this point – just like your street address or phone number.Jun 19, 2020