If you don't know, just guess! IP tracking firm caused family a decade of headaches

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In a world where next-generation GPS technology can pinpoint locations down to inches, it’s easy to become complacent about this highly accurate capability. This tech not always as spot on as you might expect though, as one family has found to their detriment over the past decade.

Over a period of 10 years, the Vogelman family has been repeatedly harassed by nuisance calls, threats, visitors and even in one case, a broken toilet being left on the drive of their 360-acre plot of land, located just shy of the very center of the continental United States (as per Fusion).

It turns out, that the cause of this repeated harassment was the fact that the Vogelmans land was simply very close to a default location used in certain IP tracking software.

The software in question is MaxMind’s IP database, which is able to track IP addresses to the city level. That’s all well and good for most of the companies that use it, but some have been trying to use it to find individual homes, and that’s where problems arise.

Related: Reddit steps up fight against trolling and harassment with new user-blocking tool

Because the Vogelman household is in the middle of nowhere, a default location that is occasionally spat out when MaxMind’s database cannot compute a more accurate one turns out to be the Vogelmans’ home. The result has been calls from companies claiming that a hacker was working out of the house, and even angry Facebook messages from jilted lovers online.

Unfortunately the Vogelmans are just one example of many who have been affected by such generalizing. Fusion has a second report on an Atlanta couple who has had to deal with dozens of people visiting their home looking for lost smartphones, which tracking apps claimed were within the house.

The phones were never there — it was just another incidence of software relying on default locations to provide some semblance of an answer.

Others have had police tear their homes up looking for stolen government property, because the IP pointed to their addresses — and many then became unable to sell their homes because they are legally obligated to disclose this potentially stressful problem.

It’s a difficult situation which can presumably be fixed over time with improved accuracy, but in the meantime, MaxMind asserts that it is aware of the issue, and that may help to bring these people some peace.

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