Your IP address is linked to your internet connection. It tells the websites and other services you use where to send the information you request as you browse.
IP addresses are not always unique to a particular person. But that doesn't mean your IP couldn't be used to identify you, because it always provides useful clues. For example, your IP typically tells the world which provider you use for your home broadband or phone service. It may reveal who you work for. It almost always gives others a general idea of where you are in the world.
This information is freely and publicly available to anyone as you browse, so websites and organisations can use IP data to build up a fairly accurate picture of what you get up to online. In some cases, it can be used to track individuals without them knowing.
Leaving this trail of digital breadcrumbs behind means you never really know who is tracking your activity. In some cases, it could lead someone right to your door.
With a VPN, you can obscure your IP address from people who might be interested in tracking it, and therefore hide your identity, without compromising your ability to use the web. Here are three key benefits:
- Protect your privacy: Websites, ISPs and even government authorities routinely track IP addresses to monitor what people are doing online. Whether this is so they can bombard you with targeted advertising or simply to pry Big Brother-style into your personal digital life, many people choose to hide their IP address to protect their privacy - as is their right.
- Guard against identity theft: Databases containing personal information are a goldmine for cybercriminals who run sophisticated fraud rackets by imitating people’s online behaviour. And your IP is a potentially useful snippet of metadata, so you might prefer not to share or store it. Hiding your IP address protects you from becoming a victim.
- Hiding your geographic location: Even when you turn location services off your device, your IP address can be used to pinpoint where you are. It might reveal the nearest town; it might show a more general location, like you or country. Some providers use this IP data to limit the content you can access. So-called ‘geo-blocking’ is particularly relevant to travellers who may find they cannot access websites they use routinely at home when they are abroad.