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IP Address – What It Mean
Most people ask themselves whether they can be tracked (have their name, address, e-mail disclosed) over the Internet by having their email or IP address detected by others. It's true that IP addresses are no longer secret. It's a main part of the Internet communications protocols to have the IP address sent each time you connect to a website, chat, play online and so on. Without the IP address, the computer on the other end wouldn't know where to send the requested information. However it doesn't mean that the bad guys can track your house in case they know your IP address. Each time you start your PC to go to the Internet you will be assigned an IP address, randomly selected from a pool of IP's assigned to your Internet service provider.
Therefore, a person is able to get a main idea of your geographic location, based on your IP address, by doing a lookup on the Internet provider database, but that will only tell them the physical location of your ISP and not your home address. Of course there is an exception to every rule. If somebody calls your ISP and wants to know who had used a certain IP address at some point, the ISP will refuse to give your information away. However, if a police officer hands your ISP a court order to reveal that information, the ISP must do accordingly. Your ISP's logs will help them determine which customer was using a certain IP address on a certain time and date and they must disclose that information in case a court of law has found probable cause that a crime was committed by that person.
However, there are still ways for surfing the Internet anonymously – for the truly paranoid or the criminally inclined individuals. The Anonymizer service will act as a proxy server between you and your ISP and they claim that your information cannot be subpoenaed because they do not have it stored. The same thing goes for your email address. The part that follows the “@” sign is your ISP's domain name and given the name of the domain, one may track the ISP's geographical location, but there is no personal information revealed about the email user without a court order. Web-based email accounts are not exactly anonymous, either. Even if you don't provide your real name when signing up, they can track your IP address and get hold of you through your ISP if necessary. It's much more likely that you or your children will reveal your physical location the traditional way, by simply blurting it out. Children who chat or play online games should be permanently reminded that they should never disclose any personal information, including their last name, phone number or home address.
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