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I'm wondering about the typical accuracy of geographical lookups based on IP addresses. I'm aware it's rarely possible to get very close to the actual position, and VPN/TOR and similar services "cheat" the system altogether.

The few addresses I looked up so far were pretty close, so apart from the issues outlined above, could one say that in almost all cases, at least the country (or even the state) is correct?

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They are as accurate as the source of the information. With IPv4 being phased out and IPv6 posed to take over, it depends on how quickly the dataset is updated, if their is a lapse, then the information can be outdated. –  Ramhound Nov 7 '11 at 13:42
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closed as not constructive by Nifle, Linker3000, 8088, techie007, Mokubai Nov 7 '11 at 23:32

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2 Answers

Over the long term, history demonstrates it to be markedly inaccurate and unreliable.

IP addresses, postcodes, and the like, were not invented to directly encode geographical locations. That is, simply, not their purpose. IP addresses are used for routing network traffic around Internet, and postcodes are used by postal services to route mail through a postal system. They are designed for those purposes. The "locations" that they do encode are locations in the topographies of Internet network connections and of postal system sorting and delivery systems, which are often very different to actual geography. Any correspondence that they might have to actual geographical locations should be considered fortunate, and unreliable. Don't expect postcodes to always work in navigation systems. Don't expect your computer's IP address(es) to identify what country, or even what continent, you are in. They weren't designed for that purpose, aren't maintained and updated for that purpose, and often produce highly erroneous results when (mis-)used for that purpose.

Further reading

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As for the postcodes in navigation systems, sorry about that. Please report them at mapinsight.teleatlas.com/mapfeedback if you have a TeleAtlas map (e.g. TomTom) :) –  MSalters Nov 7 '11 at 12:06
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Perhaps. Perhaps not.

It depends on your users. I'd guess usually the country is correct, but if your users are business users and they use leased lines to other countries, maybe not.

To answer your original question. Reliable ? No. Useful ? maybe. Creepy ? Yes !

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