Privacy can be an elusive idea, especially in modern times when it seems there is always someone peeking into your digital window. There are, of course, many ways to blanket that window so it’s more difficult for peepers to judge your every move, and the most common comes fairly standard through your Internet Service Provider (ISP). This is through your residential IP (Internet Protocol) and the IP address is assigned to your internet connection by your ISP.
Not sure if you have an IP address? If you’re reading this, then you do, and if you’re curious, just go to Google and type in “IP address.” One of the first hits you will see is a series of numbers and decimals. This is your residential IP. And after you scale back all the fancy stuff some people can do over the internet, the sheer concept of a residential IP is incredible. Remember, there was a time when this was not a thing, and someone had to think of it in order to make it a thing. And what a thing it has become.
A simple way to understand your residential IP address is think of it as sending snail mail from your physical address. You write the name and address of the recipient of the mail, slap on a stamp in one corner, and put your return address in the other. Your IP address is the return address, which identifies your location. The stamp is the charge you pay every month to your ISP. When you send a request over the internet to another IP address, it sends out with your IP address attached so that the request can be immediately returned to the correct place. It’s the modern Pony Express, allowing us to exchange information faster than anyone would have thought possible a century ago.
Your residential IP can either be static or dynamic, meaning it is either the same number all the time, or it changes based on a set schedule. Unless you check it every day, you probably won’t know if it’s static or dynamic since it is managed by your ISP.
Location, Location, Location
Because residential IPs come from your ISP, this number can also give information to websites regarding your physical location. Ever wonder how your computer just knows what the weather is where you are? Or how you can do a search for pizza delivery and it tells you all the close-by pizza delivery joints without asking for your address? It’s because Google knows. Google always knows.
But maybe you don’t want anyone else to know, which is why your information isn’t sent directly to the recipient, but rather to a proxy, which then sends it to the recipient. This allows for a more secure exchange of information between and amongst users of various levels.
Where do proxies come from?
The short answer is that proxies come from you, me, and the web. In the most general of terms, if you want more privacy on the web, you need more proxies. If you purchase them, they are either from a residential IP proxy network, like those offered by Microleaves or more commonly from a datacenter proxy network.
A datacenter proxy network uses a string of web proxies that don’t trace back to a physical location or even an ISP. This can have some benefits, mostly surrounding the fact that it’s easier to set up. The proxy being used won’t be an actual IP address, so the network doesn’t need to locate and buy up ISP proxies, and therefore can’t easily be traced back to a location or ISP.
That, however, also tends to the be the weakness of the datacenter proxy, in that everyone knows it’s not a real proxy. The distinction might seem trivial, but it’s important to always keep in mind that on the internet, any information can be useful. Others won’t be able to see your real IP address, but they will know that what you’re sending is not a real IP address and must be from a datacenter proxy server. And that by itself is information.
Datacenter proxies have caught some flack over the years because the ease of creating and using them makes them the prime medium for those wishing to use the internet for unethical purposes. For this reason, most businesses with the money to do it will set up their system to block IP addresses that are so obviously coming through a datacenter proxy. As always, a few rotten eggs spoil the whole bunch, and a great idea to promote private web use turns into a spam machine.
The difference in a residential IP proxy network
A residential IP proxy takes care of those particular issues by using actual residential IPs from an actual ISP. It’s like taking a bullet train instead of a commercial plane. They both have their pros and cons, and the plane will probably get you there faster, but if you’re on a train, you’re at least closer to the ground. The way a residential IP proxy network keeps you secure is, quite simply, to tell the world that you’re someone else.
Or, in the case of a proxy chain, it might tell them you’re several different people. The idea is put to use in the 1992 movie Sneakers when they use a proxy chain to prevent a trace of their location by the person they called. In order to trace them, the receiver of the call needed to sort through a chain of proxies before hopefully reaching the true location.
A legitimate residential IP proxy network allows you to use real residential IPs obtained through legal means so that it will look to everyone else like the information you’re sending or tasks you’re completing are coming from someone else. And because it’s real, you don’t have to worry about being blocked from websites that are trained to recognize fake proxies.
This sort of proxy network can be used in many ways. For instance, if a certain site is blocked for all IP addresses in a user’s country, a proxy could be used to make it look as though it is being accessed from a different country where it isn’t blocked. It should also be noted, however, that as with most things in life, you get what you pay for. In other words, residential IP proxies alleviate the pain points of a datacenter proxy network, but because they have less supply and higher demand, they will cost you more.
The awesome power of residential IPs
The real applications can go on and on, but the important place to focus is in the sheer prominence and power of a simple residential IP. Because of its universality, the infrastructure of such a system is practically self-governing. Our residential IP address is our home base, and in a sense, we’re all a little safer because no one is completely safe.