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Geotargeting As Censorship Mechanism?

Segregating your traffic by geographical location is a useful thing and is known in the search engine marketing circles as “geotracking”, but you could go one step further and target specific traffic based on geographical location using the cryptic practise known as “geotargeting”. But what happens when it’s used to block access to users based on their geography?

Witness:

Pandora.com

So now I’m not able to use my favorite music service at Pandora.com.

Pandora works in the following fashion: You select your favourite artist and the service makes intelligent guesses at what other artistes you might like and plays them. So it’s like an intelligent jukebox.

And I can’t use it now.

I understand copyright and territorial issues, and this is a prime example of geotargeting. In this case, restricting access based on me living in Singapore.

If you’ve been on the Internet for a period of time, you’d know that surfing through country-specific proxy servers can alter your geographical IP origin, so geotargeting can be overcome.

In my earlier days as a blogger I shifted a significant proportion of my traffic through a Singapore-based IP, which severely skewed my traffic. My current Alexa profile provides a more accurate traffic picture, although there’s quite a variation from my actual traffic, which is highly US-skewed.

So what’s to be done about geotracking and geotargeting?

It’s useful to some extent and is one of the ways to visualize your traffic picture.

But if you’re using it to restrict access, it might be as successful as the attempts to “region code” DVDs according to geographical regions.

Eventually China manufacturers released region-free DVD players into the market and mucked up whatever plans the movie studios originally had in mind.

So back to geotargeting.

It’s obvious to be more effective, it needs to be stepped up a notch.

Perhaps proxy services should be IDed and incorporated into a red flagged “proxy zone”. But since it’s so easy to set up a proxy server anyway, is that really a useful exercise?

What do you think?

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