Geo-blocking is technology that restricts access to Internet content based on a user’s location on Earth. A user’s location is determined using geolocation information such as IP addresses, profile information, and the measurement of the end-to-end delay of a network connection in order to locate the physical location of the user.
Geo-blocking is most commonly used to restrict access to premium multimedia content such as films or television shows for copyright and licensing reasons. As the digital protection of copyrighted material is becoming increasingly difficult to control, geo-blocking offers a solution. For example, Netflix, a subscription-based streaming service, uses geo-blocking due to licensing agreements with content creators. Users who live outside of the United States will be geo-blocked from watching films or television shows that are restricted to U.S. residents only. The service Netflix provides is region specific.
Other uses include applying tax codes to online purchases, blocking gambling websites in the states in which it’s illegal, fraud prevention, and blocking malicious traffic.
How to avoid geo-blocking
Because geo-blocking uses an IP address to determine a user’s location, any method that alters or hides a true IP address can be used to get around it. This is known as geo-spoofing and is mainly used to access blocked streaming content.
The most common way to avoid geo-blocking is by using a Virtual Private Network (VPN). A VPN will make it look like traffic is coming from a different location with a new IP address. It also keeps a connection safe by encrypting traffic and directing it through a safe tunnel, meaning no one can spy on activities or steal information. If using a VPN during travel, it is especially valuable when connecting to an unsecured public wifi network.
Proxy servers are also useful to avoid geo-blocking. Rather than changing an IP address, a proxy server acts as an intermediary and obtains content on a user’s behalf. The website providing the content sees the request originating from the proxy server, not the user.