The Inside Secrets About IP Addresses and Geolocation
Should you worry about being tracked?
We're all familiar with the cartoon, "Where's Waldo?" As you know, it's not always easy to find the character in the red and white striped shirt, glasses and ski cap.
It's about the same with Waldo's IP address (even if it is fictional). If he sent you an email with a picture of himself buried in a crowd, you might find him in the picture...but how would you know where he's geographically located?
No. Not as impossible as you might think.
Through a useful Internet tool called IP geolocation lookup, you can track an IP address close to someone's exact location, if they're communicating with you through the Internet...and if you want or need to know where they really are.
You can get pretty close, depending on a variety of factors, to finding the physical location of someone's IP address (if you can capture it).
Need proof? Let's see where you are, in real time, right now.
Where are you?
Go to our IP Lookup (which is an IP location finder or tracker) to see where you show up on the map. If you allow your browser to update your location (when it asks you) the geolocation accuracy gets even better.
You can get a good idea of the where someone is emailing you from using a geolocation tool, like the one right on our site (see IP Lookup). And that, for the most part, should be good enough. It will not give you anyone's name and address, but it's not supposed to. That would be a violation of their privacy... and a little too creepy.
But you'd be surprised at how close geolocation can sometimes "zoom in" on you.
When you came to the WhatIsMyIPaddress.com website, you saw that your IP address was conveniently displayed on the home page. And you also saw—maybe surprisingly—that other information was displayed, such as your:
- ZIP code
- Longitude and latitude
Whoa! Where did that come from?
It came from the IP address geolocation service used to look at the IP address of wherever you were when you visited our site.
he's within 2 miles."
Are you feeling creeped out? You don't have to be.
Learning more about the Internet
You can also look at this as a way to get educated on the power of the Internet and the tools that you (and others) can use to keep safe. (Read our section on Change IP Address and Hide IP Address.) After all, your name, street address, nickname or favorite color were not revealed. Chances are, your location was, at best, some five or six miles away from your home.
And does anybody care where you are? No, not unless you're Waldo.
Still, even when not pinpoint accurate, geolocation usually puts a computer user in a nearby town or area, which may be good enough for the person who wants to know where the curious email they received was actually sent from. Check out Trace Email.
And that person might be you. In other words, you may want to find the IP address of someone who emails you, run it through a high accuracy geolocation service and get closer to zeroing on their location. Maybe not the exact location of their IP address, but with great accuracy.
And that means you can locate Waldo and even direct him to the nearest mall to get a new shirt.