Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Geo Trouble

Now, I know that Wales has its own version of the UK Channel 4, but it seems that Channel 4's 4OD service has decided that I'm not living in the UK or Ireland.

Now, I did sleep rather well last night so could have missed the uprising in the street as my countrymen achieve independence and cast themselves adrift from the British Isles, but I doubt if this was the case.

A far more likely explanation is that Channel 4's geo-targeting database has gone awry.

Now, I do run Tor, the geospoofing application, but I restarted my router and PC and switched off Tor and could still not gain access. http://www.ip-lookup.net/ clearly tells me that I'm in the UK, so either a cookie has blocked me or the problem is an ongoing one.

It made me ask - is there a better way to geo-restrict content, since all content providers seem to be under the misapprehension that restricting their content by territory is a good thing to do.

Current geo-restrictions tend to use a database lookup either using a downloaded database or a web service. There are problems with this. For example, my wife works for an American corporation therefore has a US IP address, which is great for watching Hulu, but not very good if you want to use her PC for the BBC iPlayer.

Also, the database is being continually changed, so it's easy to come a cropper. The move from IPv4 to IPv6 is likely to make things even worse in the short term, although should improve matters in the longer terms.

Another issue with this approach is that major service providers such as AOL can assign their IPs to users from another country, thus causing content to be blocked locally.

Some other alternative are:

To trust the user (!)

To use a credit card as a key-in device

To use location based authentication on a mobile phone

To use the ISP to authenticate a location

Or, to give in and recognise that we live and operate in a global market and virtual barriers are as welcome as the return of the Berlin Wall.

Anyhow, enough on geo-targeting, I must dig my old TV set out of the storeroom so that I can watch Countdown on Channel 4!

1 comment:

wkenzie said...

You could try using pickaproxy.com service to see if that helps. We have recently setup tryouts to allow anyone to appear to be in either UK, US, France, Russia, China or Canada. To geospoof your UK presence set your browser proxy to uk.pickaproxy.com and specify port 8126.

As for the internet going forward, I am thinking that geospoofing services will help free users from geo restrictions, throw a wrench in geotargeting strategies, and maybe create a better world :)