7 Misconceptions About IP Geolocation

IP geolocation exists for more than 20 years and is widely used worldwide in a variety of applications. Unfortunately, there are still some myths around exactly what this technology is and what it can do. Here we look to resolve some of the common misconceptions surrounding the use of geolocation data.

IP Geolocation data is not accurate

Publicly available registries such as Whois or Regional Internet Registry (RIR) are often the only source of many IP Geolocation providers. Although this information is widely spread, it is also notoriously inaccurate, especially at the city level (accuracy is less than 50%). Even, the country level gaps in coverage upward of up to 30% where no results are returned. This lies in the fact that Whois registration is not mandatory for ISPs. Besides, most of them register their entire allocated IP ranges to their corporate headquarters address instead of the location where the IP is assigned.

At Ipregistry, we make use of several advanced methods to find an IP location and many other characteristics. By combining public data, routing information, and feedback collected from partners, Ipregistry can identify where the user actually accesses the Internet down to the ISP's end-point equipment. We provide an IP geolocation solution that covers 99.9999% of the Internet and accuracy at the country level is more than 99.9% while city precision oscillates between 70 and 97% within 30 Miles depending on the country.

Dynamic IP addresses make accurate geolocation information impossible

Internet Service Provider (ISP) dynamic allocations and re-allocations tend to be within known pools of IP addresses, and the geographic allocation of pools remains fairly constant at the ISP level. With the right commercial partners, it's possible to ensure that data remains up-to-date and accurate.

Only ISPs can provide accurate IP geolocation information

Most ISPs either do not report location information in the Whois registries and, in most cases, only report the address of their corporate headquarters. To sum up, ISPs are notoriously inaccurate in keeping the location information of IP addresses updated in public registries. Furthermore, with about 5% of IP addresses changing on a monthly basis since IP addresses are re-allocated, ISPs simply have no incentive reasons to maintain a public consolidated, and up-to-date database.

IP addresses are Personally Identifiable Information (PII)

It is widely claimed by the U.S. and EU data privacy laws (respectively, the US Privacy Shield and the european General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)) that an IP address, in and by itself, is not a personal data, but that an IP address can become a personal data when combined with other information or when used to build a profile of an individual. If IP addresses were considered PII, then no routers database or Whois registries could legally exist, which would mean to a larger extent Internet routing could not exist as we know it. Only the collection and/or the sharing of IPs that have been on a website implicates PII.

IP-based info isn't as comprehensive as other forms of geolocation data

There exist some alternative to IP geolocation that can provide more granular and accurate location information on specific parts of the Internet. However, they often imply techniques that rely on user-provided registration data, cookies, GPS latitude/longitude coordinates, or HTML5. All these techniques have their own drawbacks:

  • Cookies: Once logger on a users' browser, cookies allow sites to store previously entered location information. Unfortunately, this requires a user to provide its location information and the cookie not being deleted. In addition, cookies are known as invasive which may require a specific disclaimer on your pages.
  • GPS latitude/longitude: A Global Positioning System is great and accurate solution to get a user location. It can provide lat/long within a few feet but it requires a dedicated application and users' permission to retrieve a fix. Besides, GPS coordinates need to be enriched since they mean little on their own.
  • HTML5 Geolocation API: The HTML Geolocation API can be used to get the geographical position of a user. However, it requires an opt-in per web session, which likely made this browser technology a piece of personally identifiable information. Additionally, not all browsers support the API and the user permission request makes this solution very limited in terms of reaching of wide audience.

IP geolocation is skewed on mobiles

With almost 9B mobile connections (as of October 2019), mobiles are becoming more popular than toilets. In order to leverage location-based services (LBS) on carrier devices, mobile users have to opt-in. However, many users refuse due to privacy or battery-life concerns. Thanks to advanced IA algorithms and a global database of mobile traffic transactions it is possible to derive geolocation IP data for mobile devices with high accuracy, identify the connection type and even identify mobile carriers.

IP Intelligence is expensive

Although many IP geolocation providers simply repackage public and free information (which is not a reliable method for accurate geolocation when used in isolation), they still ask a lot of dollars for their plans and services. At Ipregistry, we think that IP intelligence should not be expensive but fairly priced. Ipregistry pricing scales based on the volume of data requests you need: you pay only for what you use request per request. Last but not least we include a generous free tier!

IP-based geolocation is a great manner to increase response rates to geo-targeted content but also to convert web visitors by localizing content. With Ipregistry, every business can leverage IP-based geolocation.

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