What does your IP address reveal about you?

Sander van Hezik Mar 31, 2022 11:22:00 AM

Your IP address can be used to pin down the address of where your computer accessed the internet.

First things, first: What’s an IP address? “IP” stands for “internet protocol.” Your IP address it the way your internet service provider (ISP) connects you with the internet. It’s a unique number that your ISP assigns your computer so that you can communicate with the internet. Sometimes the IP address you’re using is specific to your computer, but more often than not it’s for your router. That means that everyone connecting from the same router will have the same IP address.

Finally, your IP address can change, even if you’re not signing in from a new location. Your ISP may assign your computer or router a new IP without you knowing it. It’s not something you need to be concerned about — it doesn’t affect how you connect — but just something you might be interested to know.

But the question today is: What does that IP address reveal about you?

The short answer is: It depends on who’s looking.

Here’s the long answer.

When “just anyone” is looking you up:

There is some information about you that’s accessible to anyone who has your IP address. (And your IP address can be found by pretty much anyone who has your email address.) With that number, anyone can find out the region you’re in. They’ll usually be able to see your zip code, area code, and city. However, they won’t be able to see your address, your browsing history, your phone number, or any other really personal information about you.

It’s important to note, too, that IP address lookup tools aren’t super reliable when it comes to providing information about particular IPs. While they should be able to give general regional information, sometimes they’re not even accurate for that kind of information. Basically, most people won’t be able to get very much concrete, useable information on you based on your IP address.

And if you’re using a VPN or a proxy server, they won’t even get that limited information about you. Instead, they’ll be given information about the location of the server you’re using.

When the authorities are looking you up:

However, that all changes if law enforcement wants to look you up. In that case, they can present a warrant to your internet service provider (ISP) and find out your exact location — or, at least, the exact location of the server you used to connect to the internet. More specifically, they can track down the name and address of the person who pays the internet bill. That’s because, unlike random IP address lookup sites, your ISP absolutely knows where and who you are. Otherwise, how could they bill you?

So, in summary: Your IP address doesn’t reveal much about you, at least to the average person who might be trying to look you up. But if you’re doing something illegal? (Or if the government is just being shady?) Then your IP address can be used to pin down the address of where your computer accessed the internet.