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back to article Google taps your IP address for Starbucks targeting

Google's search engine monopoly now offers so-called local results - even if you neglect to key in your particular location. Today, with a post to the Official Google Blog, the Mountain View Chocolate Factory trumpeted a worldwide roll-out of new tech that serves up local search results according to your IP address. "When you …

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Anonymous Coward

Not new...

...or that accurate unless Google have access to very privileged information.

When viewing internet "Gentlemen's Entertainment" I sometimes receive charming targeted ads featuring "Real Girls ready to 'chat' etc. etc. etc.", allegedly in Sheffield: right country but very wrong region.

My ISP is of course Sheffield based PlusNet.

So either this will be quite broken, or rather intrusive...

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Anonymous Coward

Nationwide ISPs?

Do people usually use ISPs from their local area? I thought nation-wide ISPs were the norm almost everywhere.

My IP address is registered to an ISP in Adelaide, but I'm in Sydney. So I don't see how the IP address could be all that useful as a geographical indicator in my case. Most people would be in the same boat, I'd imagine.

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Anonymous Coward

RE: Not new...

I'm also with PlusNet.. although since the BT takeover I seem to have moved to London... Not the sunny North Wales I'm sure I was in last time I ventured outside.

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Silver badge

Whatever.

If they think they are targeting me with Starbucks adverts, they are wrong. Friends don't let friends drink the swill sold as "Starbucks coffee".

Not that I use google directly, anyway. http://www.metacrawler.com/ ... try it. You'll like it.

Not affiliated in any way, etc. Just a happy user.

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Alert

GeoIP

Trying to use an IP address to get a location is always going to be flaky. The worst I came across was a customer who had an ARIN address despite being in Scarborough, North Yorkshire. GeoIP et al thought they were in Texas. Result - no access to all the BBC UK only sites and a lot of confusion. Thanks for that Global Crossing (although to be fair to them they did get the routing right and didn't send the UK-UK traffic via a transatlantic link, which I've seen before)

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Oh good.

I'll be getting targeted content based around Telford then. Shame I don't actually work for Entanet any more!

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Re: Not new... (or the power of statistics)

Google do have access to very privileged information. They have most of our search queries. While people from around the world will search for restaurants in Zurich, you would expect clustering for IP addresses in Zurich. So, if you know that an IP address range equivalent to, say, an IPv4 /24 subnet asks about Zurich more than anywhere else in the world, assume it’s in Zurich. Similarly, Google have all the deliver-to addresses from Google Checkout. Any clustering will be people sending items to their current location. This clustering phenomenon will even apply to something like Street View. Upon finding they live in a Street View area, one of the first places many people look at is their own street. Plus, there’s going to be a positive feedback loop. When Google search gets it wrong, enough people will use the “change location” link that it will allow the association between that IP address range and geolocation to be updated quickly and automatically.

MaxMind’s GeoIP product should give you an idea of the sort of database that can be built up. As has been commented, that’s a long way from perfect, but Google’s enormous reach will be able to do far, far better.

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RE: Re: Not new... (or the power of statistics)

The problem with your scenario is you need the address range to remain in a geographical location over time so although google gets it wrong to start with, it can correct over time. In reality that range will be shared by people up tut'North and those soft southners so there wont be a single grouping.

As a prime example, I now live in London. My geolocation says Milton Keynes. I used to live somewhere quite different, but had the same IP range and geolocation was...Milton Keynes.

Having said that if anyone can do it (or buy out someone who can) it's Google

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Anonymous Coward

Sorry?

What ads? ABP=FOAD google

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Coat

Right Google...

IP addresses are not identifiable information? Of course not. Unless an IP is spoofed, there's no way to find out who it's assigned to. Not unless there's some crazy scheme I don't know about where they can find out which ISP has that address range then call the ISP and ask which account had the IP assigned at the time...Actually, hold on...

I'll be in my bomb shelter and if anyone with a suit and dark glasses comes around, I'm not here, 'kay?

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Anonymous Coward

Static vs dynamic IP?

The big ISPs in the UK (and elsewhere?) all use dynamic IP allocation, static IP allocation is the territory of the boutique ISPs already mentioned (Entanet, Plusnet, etc). At a very rough guess that'll be 90% of broadband users who don't know from day to day what their IP address is going to be.

Given that, is there anything to stop a given IP address being in Aberdeen in the morning and Cornwall in the evening?

I'm a Plusnet customer but the geography-specific ads mentioned earlier seem to think I'm not in Sheffield, I'm in Newbury/Oxford/Swindon. And this persists whether I'm on a Plusnet connection or something different. Htf does that work (can't be cookies, they get cleaned regularly)?

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Stop

Your IP address *is* personally identifiable information

If you have a static IP address then that's yours and isn't going to change.

So it's a bit like saying OK, we know your name is Joe Bloggs but that's not personally identifiable information becase we say so. Or maybe it's more like, "We know your address but we don't know your name so we can't identify you personally".

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@ Richard Hodgson

You're lucky that you've got the country right at least, a lot of our IPs seem to claim to be in Amsterdam lately.

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Nice one

My company is based overseas whilst I work in an office here so I already struggle with stuff like the BBC blocking content because it says I am not in the UK or google forcing me to use a homepage other than google.co.uk. Now my actual search results will be a load of old bollocks as well.

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Black Helicopters

Legal ? Phorm

In reality, most broadband routers are always on (even if the PC/Mac isn't), so they will retain a relatively static DHCP address. (I know my router hasn't changed address in 4 months). Lease time is typically in the days, so even if the router s switched off overnight, it could still pick up the same address.

And presumably google could cross check the cookie to the IP address to confirm it is the same host.

Tie all that back to a database of previous searches and you've got Phorm. Agreed it doesn't cover clicks on non-google sites - except where google links with it's "affiliates"

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Silver badge

Override!

They're making the assumption that I want local stuff. What happens if I'm trying to research for a friend or for a holiday or other trip? I want to be able to tell them not to think they know best about what I want, that's a mistake I normally associate with Redmond, not Mountain View.

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Anonymous Coward

Back in the day....

In the US ISPs were localised, and based in a specific region. This was because all US phones came with free local calls, so ISPs based themselves locally to give free dialup internet access. Despite all the consolidation in the US this still holds true I believe, but unsurprisingly the UK internet industry which is much broader geographically, hence the ladies never know quite where to find you for "hot dates".

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Joke

Any chance..

..that Google will be offering its vast store of data to governments, at a price..(hopefully cheaper than HMG's potential plans in this direction, save a bit of taxpayers money etc..) ?

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Ru
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Boffin

Re: Static vs dynamic IP?

ISPs are quite likely to allocate you a dynamic IP address from a block that reflects your region, for quite sensible routing regions. You can often see this sort of thing simply by looking at reverse DNS names for the IP address currently assigned to you. Here's an example, allocated to a person who indeed lives in Derby, routed via Leicester (as a traceroute proved):

cpc3-derb2-0-0-cust234.lei3.cable.ntl.com

An address being allocated to Cornwall in the morning and the Outer Hebrides in the afternoon is rather less likely.

Furthermore, some dynamic IP allocations are 'sticky' in that they can conceivably remain associated with your net connection for an extended period of time, even if they haven't been statically assigned to you.

Geolocation isn't what makes IP addresses personally identifying, however. It is just one piece of a much larger profile that google can build up about you. Knowing you are connecting via Zen from an IP listed as being located in Bracknell using IE7 on Windows XP means is going to leave you in a pool of perhaps a few hundred or a few thousand people. Once you start searching for baby clothes and donkey porn like you did last week, google will know and could conceivably carry on tracking you even in the absense of the usual google cookie.

That aside, given a time and an IP address, it is quite possible to find out where the connection was made from. Your ISP will have address allocation logs, for example. This can be tracked back to your phone line, your SIM number or a MAC address of a WLAN card, so unless you actively take steps to conceal yourself, you can be found.

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Stop

Oh dear...

When searching for a product or service, it is usually those that are very far away from my current location (like, another country) that gives me the best deals (before HM Customs get their claws in) so this is exactly the sort of feature that I DON'T want.

Congratulations Google ... what a muck up.

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Heart

oh well

I love scroogle....

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RE: Oh dear...

From what I can gather Google already target links based upon your country of origin -- I am always forced to use google.co.uk rather than .com and the first half dozen retail sites almost always appear to be in the UK if there are UK retailers selling the item.

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Coffee

I just asked Google, "where can I get a good coffee" and it came back with the Mighty Good Coffee Roasting Co. of Ann Arbor, MI., a mere 6101km away from London where I am currently. I'm sure the coffee's great, but I might give it a skip this coffee break.

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Anonymous Coward

ISPs are quite likely to...

"ISPs are quite likely to allocate you a dynamic IP address from a block that reflects your region, for quite sensible routing regions"

For cable, I believe you, for LLU I could believe you, but is this true also for DSL via BT or their resellers (such as the aforementioned Zen)? I was under the impression that BT Home Gateway locations (or whatever the name is where BTw used to connect to their ISP customers, prior to the much-overhyped 21CN rollout) were almost unrelated to the location of the BTwoolsale end users. Eg customer in Aberdeen, HG in Ilford. Or in my case, end user in Birmingham, BT HG not the Birmingham one but some other one.

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Stop

I can hardly wait for IPv6

and your new static IP address...which will promptly be sold by your ISP to everyone under the sun...so that you can be targeted for advertising, etc...so that the gubmint knows for sure who you are...so the IFPI know who you are...and on, and on, and on....

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Joke

Laser Guided Advertising (ish)

Its just not good phorm!!

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