People vs Automation: Why IP Geolocation Validation Still Needs a Human Touch

When a bridge or one-way street or exit closure is missing from Google Maps, it can leave users lost or worse. To mitigate the chance of this happening, Google created the “Ground Truth Team,” which responds to tens of thousands of error reports submitted daily.

Neustar, like Google, knows that our ability to determine the location—or to “map” where an IP address is located as it accesses the internet—is of paramount importance to our customers. This geolocation decisioning data is used by businesses including content delivery, fraud prevention, ecommerce, regulatory compliance, and network security.

As you can imagine, the “freshness” and “currency” of this data is critical. Getting it wrong or having out-of-date location data can mean dissatisfied customers and ultimately lost revenue. This is why we created the Neustar Network Geography Analyst (NGA) Team over a decade ago. Similar to Google’s Ground Truth Team, our team responds to daily location-validation requests we receive from industry-leading customers, including Major League Baseball (MLBAM) and Sky Media, helping ensure our IP geolocation is up to date.

You are probably aware that each device that is connected to a network has at least one IP address that allows it to communicate with other devices on the same or different networks. IP addresses and the protocols that use them are the foundation of the internet. But what you may not know is that the IP address space is huge, with over 4 billion IPv4 and 340 undecillion IPv6 routable addresses. These IP addresses are assigned by providers based on network requirements, not a physical location. Two sequential IP addresses could be in use by devices located geographically distant from each other. This lack of a direct relationship between the physical world and the millions of network addresses currently available has created a need for IP geolocation technology to provide the correlation between a physical location and an IP address.

Our NGA team has decades of experience in keeping our IP geolocation data as accurate and current as possible, using real-world inputs from external sources and customers. Our “continuous-loop geolocation-feedback process” enhances the quality of our IP GeoPoint data by using human expertise and insight to decode network patterns and match corresponding data.

Neustar NGAs, who work in our San Francisco and Costa Rica offices, review and oversee reference data and location-validation requests from customers and partners, in order to ensure that our IP address map data is accurate and up to date. We receive geolocation feedback data from our customers 24 hours a day.

These are some of the daily tasks necessary for us to do our jobs:

  • Review “overnights,” i.e., location-validation requests that come in after hours, and then quickly collaborate to review the data and assign resources to make any required changes.
  • Analyze and incorporate geolocation data into our database, like address block mappings provided by ISPs.
  • Research router-naming conventions to identify in which cities these routers are located.
  • Create mapping rules to associate IP addresses with locations. For example, a large block of IPs might get reallocated to a different state, or there might be an ongoing issue for a specific carrier in a specific region that needs to be addressed. In this case, I research those networks and make necessary changes, then communicate with the rest of the team.
  • Analyze and identify internet routing patterns and historical trends to build network maps with network “anchor points” in the physical world.
  • Find IP addresses that are hidden behind anonymizers or VPNsby manually digging through networks to find them.

Other activities may include:

  • Special projects like working with our analytics and research teams on the development of new data mapping processes or algorithms.
  • Designing process improvements to reduce the need for manual intervention and improve the speed and efficiency of data analysis.

Once these tasks are completed, all validated data is run through our synthesis process to enrich both our IP GeoPoint and IP Reputation data services, which are then updated and pushed to production once each week.

Neustar, like Google, believes that automation is only part of the solution when it comes to providing both accurate digital maps and high-quality IP geolocation data. Our dedicated team of Network Geography Analysts sets us apart from the automation-reliant competition and enables us to provide the highest quality IP geolocation decisioning data.

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