Online You Are Just a Number

Just like the famous and incredibly stylish 1960s TV series, the Prisoner - when you do anything online you are basically just a number. Patrick McGoohan was designated the number 6 when he was transported to a rather strange prison, a categorisation that he wasn't too impressed with famously replying with

 I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed or numbered.
The programme and star has become somewhat of an icon to many, with some of the incredibly bizarre situations becoming rather potentious  in our current surveillance world.

When you do anything online you are assigned a number, it's called an IP Address which stands for Internet Protocol.  This number isn't really assigned for a any sinister reason, it's simply used to enable the communication protocol of the internet - TCP/IP to function.

You'll often come across this address - currently they are in the format - and each is completely unique to every device connected to the internet. This uniqueness is essential, because without it then packets and data would be misdirected and the internet simply wouldn't work.  Unfortunately this is now being used to censor, filter and control access by the more commercial web sites on the web.

For instance a company like Netflix will secure copyright deals for films and movies based on specific countries, so they may have secured the rights to screen a programme in the USA but not in Europe.  The only way they can control this is by looking up your location when you connect, which can only be done by using your IP address.  It's extremely annoying particularly if you happen to spend any amount of time in certain countries without any agreements - my Netflix  account is quite often blocked when I travel abroad.

The number of sites that do this is increasing exponentially every year as companies seek to maximise profits and control access based on location.  It's hardly surprising that now people try and control their geolocation data by choosing to buy IP address services like the one in this video.

Services like these mean that the control switches to the user instead of the web site.  If I want to watch the news live on the BBC whilst holidaying in Spain, I merely select a UK IP address which will obscure my Spanish one.   It gives allows you to bypass all these country based filters and access sites which are normally inaccessible.

The other benefit of some of these services is the privacy aspect, a large proportion of them work as a secure VPN service like this.  This means as well as keeping your location secret, they also encrypt all the data you send online.  For travellers this is especially useful as it means that when you access confidential sites when using insecure, public wifi in places like hotels and cafes - your data is actually protected from being intercepted maliciously.

At the heart of these geotracking sites though is the fact that companies are still operating using a 20th century model.  By sticking to outdated economic models like price discrimination and regional copyright controls they will forever be battling these services and worst the growth of piracy as people simply steal and share their content.  The internet is a global marketplace and we all should be treated equally not split into profit centres to exploit and restrict.