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Tracking Trick Shows the Web Where You Are


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Microsoft researchers used Web users IP addresses to track when they moved house in 2008 and 2009.

ACM / Microsoft

Using nothing more than the unique number assigned to every Internet connection, websites could determine whether you're logging on at home, work, or a travel location like an airport or hotel, researchers at Microsoft have shown. They say the technique could target advertisements more precisely—or improve the security of Web services by identifying users as legitimate according to their location.

Websites commonly use the numbers known as Internet protocol (IP) addresses to approximate the physical location of visitors (visit this site to see the location guessed from your IP address). The method, which is typically accurate to the level of a city, lets advertisers target people with local deals.

Until now, though, IP addresses have not been used to determine what kind of place the person is connecting from. Researchers at Microsoft Research Silicon Valley used a data set of IP addresses collected from logs of updates to an unnamed widely used software package and from log-ins to an unnamed popular webmail service. Tracking user locations by IP address could help advertisers sidestep suggested features of the "do not track" option that Congress is considering as a way to let people opt out of tracking by advertisers.

From Technology Review
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