Do not expect privacy on the Internet

by on April 1, 2010

Q: Can somebody find out who I am by my IP address? Like if I went on a message board and my IP was listed on my post?

A: The Internet is like writing a letter to someone. You really have no idea where it will end up, who will see it, and when it will come back to bite you in the butt. Some people have a misconception that the Internet is more like chatting with a friend where there is no real record of you saying what you said but that isn’t how the Internet works. The minute something is put online it is there forever. There are hundreds of search engines that parse the Internet every second to get all new information and record it.

So now that we know anything you do online is forever I would suggest that you just don’t do anything you might be ashamed of. If your mom was sitting there watching you doing what you are doing would you do it? If the answer is no then it is probably best you just don’t do it.

To answer the original question about IP addresses the answer is that if someone really wanted to find out who you were they probably could. The ISP that owns the IP address keeps records of who uses it and when they use it so the information can be subpoenaed. Also the owner of the site knows who you are to some extent if you have to create an account. So by way of the account and by way of what else you do on the site anyone with access to the account information could also figure out who you are.

Realize many sites on the Internet are run by people who don’t have enough time to be masters at the software but know enough to get the sites up and running. This means there is a chance that someone will exceptional knowledge of the software running the site might be able to break into the site and get information to figure out who you are too. So the simple answer is, it is very difficult to be 100% anonymous online so just don’t do anything you might regret.

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