iphones and web traffic
August 20, 2010 3:44 PM   Subscribe

If I visit a website on my iPhone, and the site owner uses Google Analytics or similar, what if anything can they tell about me?

I'm not stalking anyone or doing any super secret websurfing, just wondering how detailed this information is. It seems like it could potentially be super detailed, but I have no clue.
posted by peep to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Same as if you were using a desktop browser.
posted by GuyZero at 3:49 PM on August 20, 2010 [2 favorites]

Your browser, probably version, where you came from, what you visited, where you physically are (like city-granular, not street address or anything). Nothing your regular browser doesn't send. Rest assured, you won't get a call from a website owner moments after you've left their site :)
posted by wrok at 3:59 PM on August 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

I get a neat little icon representing your phone. Beyond that, all the same stuff anybody else gets -- search query or referrer that brought you to my site, your pathway through the site, your IP address, and so on.

Are you wondering about location data?
posted by circular at 4:02 PM on August 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: OK, so the city would be where I am now? So if I traveled across the country it would say the visit came from Chicago instead of Portland?

And my iphone ip address doesn't have any super-identifying info?

On preview: circular, yes, mostly. And whether someone would see "Visit from Peep, phone number xxxxxx"! Seems potentially possible even though not likely.
posted by peep at 4:06 PM on August 20, 2010

They wouldn't see a phone number.
posted by kosmonaut at 4:18 PM on August 20, 2010

Whether your phone IP has any super-identifying info depends on how your phone carrier configures its proxies and how it distributes IP number to handsets. It could be that, in theory, every Verizon phone gets the same IP because the have a huge NAT gateway: very anonymous. It could be that they assign a publicly-routable IP based on which tower you're connected to: not very anonymous.

I do not know what phone companies do in practice. My guess is that it's closer to #1.
posted by GuyZero at 5:26 PM on August 20, 2010

Best answer: OK, so the city would be where I am now? So if I traveled across the country it would say the visit came from Chicago instead of Portland?

It is the city for the IP address your carrier handed out for the data session Let's say you have ATT. The phone gets an IP address from a ATT's data network based on what tower you're bouncing off of. So if you're in Chicago, it will be from ATT's Chicago pool of IP address. If it is in Portland, it comes from the Portland pool. Sometimes the carrier may change a block of its numbers and the guys that geolocate don't know of this so you can be in Texas and the IP address might be for the block in Maine. Back when I had the original iPhone, the tower I'd attach to near my office in SW Austin, would come up in Google Maps app for Seguin TX which is nearly 100 miles away. Eventually ATT fixed that so it reported me being in the right town. At some Coffee Bean wifi locations in San Diego, they'll think I'm in Los Angeles. My cable company's lookup for my block of IP addresses is within 100 meters of my apartment. It all depends on how good that IP address -> physical location lookup is.

Of course, some sites can capture your location via GPS to give you finer detailed information like many of the apps do like Yelp, The Weather Channel, and now Facebook. Google and Twitter do this but Safari on the iPhone will ask you if you want to transmit your location details. If you do, it uses the GPS info to target results for you locally. So if you want a hamburger, you don't have to type "hamburger in San Diego" but just "hamburger" and the results will be localized to wherever you are. And not only hamburger stands in the city, but the ones in your neighborhood. You can always turn this function off or answer no when Safari asks if you want to give it your location data. I don't know if the sites that use the geolocation data from your phone do with this after the server shows whatever query you requested.

The phone definitely doesn't transmit your phone number when browsing webpages.
posted by birdherder at 6:08 PM on August 20, 2010

No they won't get your phone number. Just your IP address. They can only pin you down to the city where the IP address lives.
posted by nogero at 6:56 PM on August 20, 2010

Best answer: To get an idea of how accurate geolocation by IP address is or isn't for the iPhone, try visiting this page. Click the other tests along the left hand column for more things a site can find out about you, e.g. User-Agent tells them what version OS and browser you're using.
posted by Rhomboid at 7:29 PM on August 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

OK, so the city would be where I am now?

Same as if you hauled your laptop to a Starbucks in Chicago, rather than your usual Houston.

There is no special 'phone-specific' info being shared; I bet that's what you're concerned about. It's just a tiny version of Safari on a tiny computer on the internet, as far as websites know.

Romboid's link is great to get a feel for how much (or how little) info you're sharing. Almost all of it is courtesy your ISP, not your own computer or settings.
posted by rokusan at 11:00 PM on August 20, 2010

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