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Old 01-21-2014, 01:14 PM
 
Location: NY
12,267 posts, read 9,438,968 times
Reputation: 8029

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I've been researching a variety of generators and natural gas heaters, spending time on a number of tool and equipment web sites, one in particular. This morning I got a catalog in the mail from this one tool and equipment company.

I never made contact with them, never did business with them before, yet out of the blue I got a catalog from them focusing on their generators and natural gas heaters. At first I thought, how convenient, then it occurred to me, how the hell did they get my home address?

Anyone have this happen? Is it possible for a retailer to dig out our home address from our ip address?
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Old 01-21-2014, 03:05 PM
 
Location: Somewhere in northern Alabama
17,848 posts, read 54,121,626 times
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More likely a cookie or Google tracking or some such. My IP address puts me up in the Knoxville area, probably 'cause that is where the satellite feed goes up and down.
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Old 01-21-2014, 03:18 PM
 
39,445 posts, read 40,753,065 times
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Generally speaking IP is good for general location.

Let's say you visit site A which is about clown cars and you and have provided them with your email address or some other information. They have an agreement with site B which you never actually visit that allows them to set a cookie on your computer and provide your email address to them.

Site B has you email address or other information and they also has access to another database that they can use match yout email address to your home address, grocery club card anyone?

When you visit site C about natural gas heaters they also have an agreement with site B. Site B accesses their cookie to identify you and passes that information onto site C.

That's not necessarily exactly what happened here but it would be something along those lines.

To prevent that most browsers have an option to block third party cookies. That will prevent you from being tracked across multiple sites through cookies because only a domain that has set the cookie can access the cookie. By blocking third party cookies site B cannot set a cookie unless you actually visit their site.

There is however more than one to skin a cat....
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Old 01-21-2014, 06:52 PM
 
Location: NY
12,267 posts, read 9,438,968 times
Reputation: 8029
Thanks to both of you. I'm currently using Chrome. In the advanced settings I found - Send a ‘Do Not Track’ request with your browsing traffic. Would that help?
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Old 01-21-2014, 07:40 PM
 
16,300 posts, read 24,950,506 times
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The IP address can get as close as the city, and who your ISP is, but that is it for an individual or business.

In the case of illegal activities online, law enforcement can then subpoena the ISP, and they can provide the account information of who had that IP address at the date and time in question.
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Old 01-21-2014, 08:30 PM
 
Location: Wandering.
3,517 posts, read 5,576,444 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dockside View Post
Thanks to both of you. I'm currently using Chrome. In the advanced settings I found - Send a ‘Do Not Track’ request with your browsing traffic. Would that help?
Do not track only works for websites that are willing to respect it.

You are better off with an addon that outright blocks these trackers. I use Ghostery in Firefox, but I'm sure the Chrome version works well too.

https://chrome.google.com/webstore/d...mpeaniij?hl=en
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Old 01-21-2014, 10:04 PM
 
Location: NY
12,267 posts, read 9,438,968 times
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Hmm, for a fee, these people claim they can find your exact address. Ip address lookup. Find IP address exact location. Ip locator
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Old 01-22-2014, 12:24 AM
 
39,445 posts, read 40,753,065 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dockside View Post
Hmm, for a fee, these people claim they can find your exact address. Ip address lookup. Find IP address exact location. Ip locator
If they can they are certainly not doing it through the IP alone, it's another variable just like the one above. Many consumers have static IP's but that can and does change over weeks to years.
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Old 01-22-2014, 12:54 AM
 
Location: Coeur d'Alene, Idaho
414 posts, read 899,820 times
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No, an IP address alone does not provide enough information for someone to trace your address. That said, your IP address is available to every site you visit, and any information you enter on those sites and even the very act of visiting them can be logged and a profile of you including your interests and even your address can be built over time.

IP addresses are distributed regionally by the IANA (Internet Assigned Numbers Authority) to regional internet registries, which then delegate blocks of those IP addresses to their customers (internet service providers and other large businesses requiring large blocks of IP addresses), which then distribute them us, the end users.

In most cases an IP address by itself can narrow your location down no further than your city, and perhaps your ZIP code. However, every site you visit can potentially store the IP address you're using and share it with others. This sort of information is valuable to marketers, and they're not afraid to make use of it.

When that happens enough, a profile can be built around your interests. Enter a contest and give out your home address or purchase something from a website that doesn't follow a good privacy policy, and your home address is now associated with your ip address. Every time you visit a website, post on a forum or leave a comment somewhere, it's another bit of data tied to your IP address that can potentially be sold and eventually find itself in a profiling database.

There are businesses out there that specialize in selling people's demographic and psychographic information to marketers. They sell data lists that allow marketers to target advertising campaigns based upon location, income, family status, interests, religious preference and other very personal information.

It's entirely possible that the company purchased a data list of people who are interested in the products they sell and are likely to have the means to purchase their products. If this is the case, it's entirely possible the company doesn't even know your name. Often these data lists are anonymized by the companies that sell them and they just give a general overview of the consumers who are likely to be reached. Something to the effect of "this list encompasses 1,000 middle aged couples with children and with an income between $70,000 and $100,000 who are interested in generators." In this case, the purchased data list would be sold to the company, but they'd most likely never actually see the information on it. The mailing information would be passed directly to a print shop to print and mail the catalogs. This is a very common practice.

Since you were looking around at lots of different sites, it doesn't surprise me that at least one of them would be doing this kind of direct mail marketing. If you've been looking at products like this for any length of time, it could have been entirely coincidental that the company happened to do that mailing shortly after you were on their website.

A second, less likely, but much creepier option is that the company you received the catalog from logs the IP addresses of its website's visitors and attempts to judge product interest from that. It could then build a list of the best prospects' IP addresses and give that list to a data seller who could check it against their databases to see if any personal addresses have been tied to those IP addresses. This would allow for highly targeted, but incredibly creepy marketing.

I'm reminded of an article I saw today about a man who received a mailing from OfficeMax. It had his name and address, but in the business name part of the address was the information "Daughter Killed in Car Crash." Undoubtedly OfficeMax purchased that data list from somewhere and at some point his personal tragedy got tied to his name in the database, accidentally getting filed as his business name. There's really no other descriptor: these profile databases are creepy.

How can you protect yourself from this? Use a good proxy server, install an ad blocker, turn on the "Do not track" option you noticed and install an addon to block cookies and other tracking like what Skunk mentioned. If a proxy server isn't an option for you for whatever reason, you can see if your ISP ever "recycles" IP addresses or if it can periodically change yours--that's not as good as a proxy server, but at least it makes it harder for these trackers to build a long-term profile about you.
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