How accurate is IP Geolocation?

How accurate is IP Geolocation?

Where’s Waldo? Well, now you can find out—that is, if he’s connecting with you online.

Through a simple Internet tool, you can generally get a good idea of where someone is communicating with you through the Internet, if you feel you need to do that. You can get pretty close to finding their location, but not as close as you think. You can get a good idea of the where someone is emailing you from using a geolocation tool, like whatismyIPaddress. But, for the most part, this should be good enough, it will not give you anyone’s name and address, but it’s not supposed to. That would be a violation of their privacy… and a little too creepy… but the technology does exists to drill-down further to the IP-Address of the camera in the coffee shop… etc…

Zeroing In… Sort of.

When you came to the website, you saw that your IP address was conveniently displayed on the home page. And you also saw—maybe surprisingly—that other information was displayed, such as your:

  • Country
  • Region
  • City
  • ZIP code
  • Longitude and latitude

Whoa! Where did that come from? It came from the IP address geolocation service used to look at the IP address of wherever you were when you visited our site. The IP address you saw could be your home computer’s IP address, or the one at the local coffee shop or airport. It all depends on where you are.

Maybe that unnerves you a bit. But after all, your name, street address, nickname or favorite color were not revealed. Chances are, your location was, at best, some five or six miles away from your home.

Still, even when not pinpoint accurate, geolocation usually puts a computer user in a nearby town or area, which may be good enough for the person who wants to know where the curious email they received was really sent from. You are expecting Palo Also, CA and it comes up in France, China, Russia or somewhere else.

According to companies that report on these things:

  • Accuracy rates on naming the city from an IP address vary between 50%-80%.
  • Determining the nation of an Internet user is 95%-99% percent accurate, for reasons that have to do with how IP addresses are allocated and registered.
  • Determining the physical location of the user, down to a city or ZIP code, is trickier and less accurate.