Internet Protocol address or the IP address is one of the basic building blocks of internet communication. A few decades ago, when computer networks were still a novel concept, different computers on a network used to identify and talk to each other by identifying the participants via their IP address.
Now after the advent of the internet, the communication between the various participants have become far more complex. That being said, the basic principles remain exactly the same. When you type a website address on the address bar of your browser, it resolves to a public IP address of the servers where the website resides. The website on the other hand can tell the IP addresses of the computers connecting to the public (or at times private) pages on their server.
Whats my IP?
The answer to the question Whats my IP is deceptively complex. When you visit a particular website, it identifies your computer based upon the IP address of your internet router. This particular address is designated by your internet service provider (ISP). If you have a business connection, or if you are using a leased line or a T1 line, then the IP address of your router will remain constant. However, if you have a typical home broadband connection, your IP address may change weekly or even daily, depending upon your ISP. This IP address remains unique. No other computer or router will have that exact same address anywhere in the world. Based upon this IP address, the servers of the website you visit will be able to pinpoint country, state and even the city where your router is located. There are certain advanced tracers in the market who are even able to pin-point the latitude and the longitude of the said routers.
Now if you are on an internal network, created either via LAN or via Wi-fi, then the IP address of your computer may look something like 192.168.xxxx.xxxx or 10.xxxx.xxxx.xxxx or 172.xxxx.xxxx.xxxx. Please note that there may be millions of computers all over the world that have the exact same internal IP, (such as 192.168.1.1), however, within the exact same network, there will only be one computer with a particular internal IP address.
How do companies use the IP address data?
As we have become more connected than any other point of human history, the concept of individual privacy has become more of an ideal than an undisputed fact. Ip address are used by internet companies and law enforcement officials to do the following.
- Gather information: Internet companies use geographic data to track the popularity of their products and services.
- Generating ad revenue: Companies that depend on CPC and CPI revenues use the IP addresses information to display localized ads that may optimize their conversion.
- Surveillance: If you are familiar with the Edward Snowden saga, then you know that the government is snooping on you. IP addresses help the government localize and pin-point the physical location of any person accessing the internet at any point of time.