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What Is My IP Address?

The internet is a part of our daily lives and we often use it without giving a second thought as to the virtual footprints we are leaving and how this information might be used. Every single time you access the internet you leave a trail of footprints behind you which can be easily followed. Your IP address is what leaves the footsteps and allows people to read all manner of information about your personal browsing habits.

What is an IP address?

The term IP address stands for Internet Protocol address. An Internet Protocol address is a unique numerical name that every electronic device connected to a computer network has.

You can think of an IP address as being similar to your home address which is assigned by your ISP. It is specific to your connection. There are currently two types of IP addresses used: IPv4 and IPv6.

IPv4 is the 4th revision of the Internet Protocol (IP) which is used to identify devices on a network. While IPv4 is the most widely deployed Internet Protocol as it is a 32-bit system which means it only allows for 2^32 addresses, meaning there can be a maximum of 4,294,967,296 addresses or devices at any one time.

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ipv4

IPv6 is a 128-bit address system that allows for a significantly higher number of addresses or devices at a single time. By comparison, this works out as:

  • IPv4 (32 Bit)- 4,294,967,296 addresses (or 1 address or device per every 1.62 people)

  • IPv6 (128 Bit)-340,282,366,920,938,463,463,374,607,431,768,211,456 addresses (which, according to Steve Leibson, is enough to "assign an IPv6 address to every atom on the surface of the Earth, and still have enough addresses left to do another 100+ earths.")

While various strategies have been deployed to extend the shelf-life of IPv4, the Internet will eventually be forced to move to IPv6 due to the limited addresses. Adoption of IPv6, however, has been slow – mainly due to upgrade costs, backward capability concerns, and sheer laziness. Consequently, although all modern Operating Systems support IPv6, the vast majority of websites do not yet bother to support IPv6.

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address-location

What is your IP address location?

Your IP address location is the portion of your IP address that allows for identification of the geographic location of your computer. This is called a geolocation tag or geotag for short. Whilst your general location can easily be found from a reverse IP lookup, those who are talented with computers and the internet, it is possible to discover your exact location. This particular ability is known as geolocation and is utilised extensively for marketing purposes.

IP addresses also exist as virtual ones. A virtual IP address (VIP or VIPA) is an IP that isn’t related to a particular physical location. These public VIPs can be shared by numerous devices connected to the internet and are common in virtual private networks.

What Can Be Discovered From An IP Address?

Whilst revealing your IP address might seem trivial and meaningless, when coupled with other data which is collected by websites, it becomes less innocent. Your IP address will reveal your:

Country

State

Zip code

City

As websites also collect other information about you, it allows a more complete and comprehensive data to be generated and allows you to be digitally fingerprinted. Other examples of data collected include:

Browser finger-printing

Metadata

Cookies

We’ve all seen the adverts that pop up after you searched for something a few days previously. This is an example of companies and marketers collecting data from your digital fingerprint which includes your IP address.

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