WebRTC: It Isn’t Just for Real Time Communications Anymore

An interesting blog post from WebRTC expert Tsahi Levent-Levi points out that the New York Times has started using WebRTC to detect the private IP addresses of its readers.    Because real time communication protocols need to know a user’s private LAN IP address to establish media sessions, this information is now available to any web server from a WebRTC compatible browser.

 

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Really… why is that interesting, you may be asking yourself?   OK, maybe that was a bit of an exaggeration.  But it is at least noteworthy.  First, because it includes an except from a facebook forum exchange between SIP gurus Cullen Jennings (Cisco) and Michael Jerris (FreeSWITCH); and second because it highlights the old axiom about the unanticipated consequences of technology (or maybe the clever folks at Google had this use case in mind all along).

Is this a big deal?  Maybe… maybe not.    The NYT could be using this information for the completely legitimate reason of determining how many people on a given public IP address are reading articles behind it’s paywall.  But… it is just one more example regarding the many ways that technology strips away you privacy.