Internet Anonymity

After yesterday’s Google post about them in a position for mass harvesting of data that can be monetized and/or learned from, I had an interesting experience today that’s illustrative of how anonymous we are — or aren’t — today on the ‘net.

Now that more of us are participating online, we’re leaving bread crumb trails all over the place. If you blog, are in social networks with public displays of information, or comment authentically, you’re leaving shreds of yourself all over the ‘net.

Case in point was someone performing mischief on a site where I’m posted. The interesting thing is that the wiki keeps a history of every IP address where an edit originated (similar to what Wikipedia does and where Adam Curry was busted editing his bio and a local Minnesota politician his bio…among other people who’ve done the same).

I figured it was someone else on the wiki list so I did a geolocated IP lookup of the IP address and discovered it originates in New York State and it displayed the actual city within it. Next I looked at that same IP address and the other edits that had occurred in the wiki history section and narrowed the possible field down to three other bloggers. Then I went to those three blogs and lo-and-behold…one guy blogs from his home in that exact city in New York.

This took less than ten minutes. Even though more and more of us have our IP addresses doled out by ISP’s that show the IP address is in Reston, VA or some such centralized location, the availability of geolocation databases will undoubtedly become more transparent unless Congress enacts legislation. (Check yours here and also notice that, amusingly, “address” is misspelled “adress” in the URL…but it works and should show you your city, etc.).

Of course, the Federal government, law enforcement, and undoubtedly a host of commercial companies can buy these or have these databases just like they can acquire access to our complete, unadulterated credit profile. With the present rate of storing clickstream data and all the world’s knowledge, if you’re internet active and participatory you’ll probably end up being a good chunk of a googol of data accessible to those who want to know about you, advertise to you or find you.

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  1. Lucian on February 25, 2007 at 3:52 pm

    There are so many websites you can find information about IP addresses, more, some websites offering IP databases for free…

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Podcasting hit the mainstream in July of 2005 when Apple added podcast show support within iTunes. I'd seen this coming so started podcasting in May of 2005 and kept going until August of 2007. Unfortunately was never 'discovered' by national broadcasters, but made a delightfully large number of connections with people all over the world because of these shows. Click here to view the archive of my podcast posts.