IP Geolocation (IPG) has been a part of our digital lives, for quite a few years now. Though there are serious caveats in the use of the technology.
Most people don’t sweat it a lot, though. I would bet a lot of them don’t even know the amount of identity-related data that can derive from the 4 octets of an IP address.
We take for granted that, the “power users” know how to apply fundamental protection schemes (e.g. VPN connections). That means we need to regulate the use of technology for the aforementioned majority.
What is IP Geolocation?
IPG is the process of identifying the physical location of an internet user using their IP address.
This technology has many useful applications. But there are also several reasons why some people might consider it terrible.
IPG technology has become an essential tool in various industries, like marketing, transportation, and security. Some examples of its usage might be:
Targeted ads in mobile apps
Hi there, Google. 🙂 A huge concert in Buenos Aires is probably indifferent to the average Esthonian.
Fraud detection and prevention.
Online services can use IP geolocation to detect and prevent fraud.
If you logged in from Budapest 10 minutes ago, a login from Spain is usually suspicious. Because we haven’t been able to travel at light speeds yet.
Social media may suggest following other accounts around your area
However, there are several reasons why some people believe that geolocation technology should be abandoned altogether.
The use of geolocation technology raises serious concerns about privacy. The ability to track an individual’s movements and activities can be considered invasive.
This technology can also be used to create detailed profiles of individuals, including their interests, habits, and preferences. These profiles can be sold or used for targeted advertising. Regardless of your view, you cannot ignore the creepiness of the process
Geolocation technology can be highly inaccurate, especially when attempting to pinpoint an individual’s exact location. Inaccurate data can lead to errors and inaccuracies in the data that is collected and analyzed, leading to poor decisions based on incorrect data.
Geolocation technology can be used to discriminate against individuals based on their location.
For example, an advertiser may choose not to show ads to individuals in certain geographic areas, which could be discriminatory. For example, geolocation data could be used to train machine models. If those data track neighborhoods with the specific census, this could result in a biased result.
To be or not to be?
We can obviously see that IPG has some serious advantages.
Regulating in favor of the user could supercharge the intrinsic value of the technology. At least till we invent a native technology that offers such protection measures out of the box.
What is the alternative though? The most popular methods used to be:
- Cell tower triangulation
- User-provided information
Is IPG the least of all evils? Is it a necessary evil? Is it evil at all?
As with most things in life, it depends. We need to weigh the pros and cons. But to me, it is obvious that it can become a dangerous tool in the wrong hands.
While some people may consider IP geolocation technology terrible, it is important to recognize that it also has strong benefits. It is necessary to balance the benefits and reduce the concerns associated with this technology. So to ensure that it is used in a way that is respectful of individuals’ privacy rights, accurate, secure, and non-discriminatory.