I would like to understand if an IP address on an email gives away your location to an ordinary person, or a person with some reasonable IT savvy. I was given to understand that a computer's IP address is embedded in a header somewhere in emails sent out. If I am in city X and send out an email, and I go to city Y and send out another email to the same person, would they be able to discern that my location has changed? And if yes, how? And I wonder if you wouldn't mind answering the same question if I am using my IPhone to send emails. Would it be discernible to the same person that my IP is no longer in city X, but in city Y?
With many thanks and appreciation,
- Traceable Tracy
You’re correct, your IP address is sent in the header of every email you send. That IP address is unique to the network connection that you are using when the email is sent. From a computer, this will be different depending on your location, and it is possible to simply look up that IP address and get a general location usually by city (which may actually be the city that the Internet Service Provider is sending it’s signal from) but not much more specific than that. The same is true if you send emails on your iPhone USING a WI-FI CONNECTION ONLY. If you use your phone’s data connection to send an email, the IP address will always be mostly the same unless you are in a vastly different region geographically. Most cell phone providers have data hubs in major areas (like Western MA and Northern Connecticut) which determine your IP address based on the towers that are broadcasting the wireless signal you are picking up. With a bit of investigation, you can use the IP address in the email header sent through that particular tower to pinpoint the general location of the hub you are using which is usually a less specific location.
So, I hope that’s not too confusing. To sum up, emails from your computer, it is possible and easy to discern a general location, as well as if you are using a wi-fi connection with your cell phone. With your cell phone, it is more difficult to determine location and it is much less location-specific. If you are worried about giving off your location through your IP address, you can successfully hide your IP using a proxy server or a service like Tor. You can download a Tor installation bundle that will let you turn on/off a connection to the Tor relay network, which masks your IP address and then bounces your signal off of several relay points which changes your IP address each time, resulting in a virtually untraceable trail. It’s rather easy to use if you read through their guide to advanced setup (with video). You can download the software bundle here. Once you get it set up and turned on, you’ll never have to worry about privacy again (I use this system all the time, btw)!
Thanks for your question, hope it helps you!