If you don’t love the idea of advertisers and tech giants knowing where you are at all times, you’re not alone.
Most people feel a little squirmy about being tracked, and therefore get a little uncomfortable when highly targeted ads know their location, but geo-targeting is simply part of being on the digital grid today, and it actually serves to make your life better, too.
The Blurred Line Between Digital and Physical Addresses
To discuss the beginnings of geo-targeting, you have to first understand that advertising platforms aren’t utilizing any sort of surreptitious tracking technology to ferret out your whereabouts, they’re simply using your IP address.
Your IP address gives websites a fairly specific idea of your location, which allows them to sell businesses highly targeted ads because they can make sure the ads only appear to those accessing the site from a select range of IP addresses.
This technology is nothing new. IP addresses have been standardized for decades, it’s sites’ abilities to capitalize on the knowledge of your location that is a fairly recent development, because it took a while for them to develop algorithms that only filtered ads to specific addresses.
How Does This Impact You?
You may not love the idea of Google or Facebook keeping track of your IP address, but it actually ensures that you only see relevant ads. The idea of anonymity may appeal to you, but think about how frustrated you’d be to see an ad for a major sale at a local car dealership, only to find out it actually only applied to a neighboring state.
By only targeting you with businesses or services that are available in your area, advertising platforms filter out a great deal of excess noise for you. Think of it like going to buy a local newspaper—you wouldn’t expect to see ads for a different city there, so why should your digital experience be any different?
Above and Beyond
Of course, there are situations in which geo-targeting goes above and beyond IP addresses. If your location services are turned on, certain advertising platforms will use that information to their advantage.
For example, if you visit a Wendy’s restaurant, and receive an ad for Wendy’s later that same day, it’s no coincidence. These are highly targeted ads, and if you’ve allowed certain applications access to your location, they’re not doing anything seedy.
The reality is that to enjoy modern conveniences, like GPS on cell phones or typing “food near me” into smartphone browsers, you have to concede that your location is being watched and used for monetary gain.
You always have the option to turn off your location services until it comes time to use a location-specific app, but you’ll never be able to escape geo-targeting entirely. As technology becomes more finite, you’ll likely see more and more localized ads based solely on your IP address.