Technology has made lives easy. Majority of people, especially the younger generation’s life is impossible without it. Geolocation is one of those technologies that has made life easier for humans all around the globe. This technology has also become a standard feature in various industries from law enforcement to e-commerce.
Since a good portion of today’s world exists online, using a GPS to get help with things such as mapping, shopping and even well-being is just another blessing of technology to make things easier for all.
Allowing websites to access the geolocation has genuine benefits in giving websites’ access to user data allows them to adjust their services according to the different needs of individuals. It also makes it simpler for them to provide features that are location-specific.
On the contrary, it may also become a privacy nightmare for some users as your browser can leak your details including your physical location, your IP address along with your device details to websites even when using a VPN (Virtual Private Network).
Fortunately, the privacy-conscious individuals may choose whether to use this feature on a case by case basis or turn it off altogether. Such users can deny access to their physical location simply by disabling the Geolocation feature.
Following is the procedure to do it.
The particular fine points of how the feature works differ in every browser. Desktop browsers gather clues such as the browser user agent information, the IP address and a list of spotted Wi-Fi networks in the neighbourhood along with their signals strengths to guess the physical location of the user.
If this sounds even more daunting, the privacy nightmare can get worse on smartphones where the aforementioned information is combined with the mobile device tracking data to identify the physical location even further. This takes account of mobile network information, GPS data and your mobile phone’s IMEI identification number.
The location identified by the Geolocation feature is pretty much accurate. Some users have reported that despite enabling a VPN, mylocation.org was still able to locate them when using a desktop browser with the feature being turned on. On a mobile phone, the accuracy was almost perfect.
By default, before giving access to your geolocation, all browsers will have the courtesy to ask permission of the user. On the other hand, it is also possible that you or a family member has mistakenly changed the setting of your browser to enable this feature by default. Additionally, it is also not uncommon for malware to change the browser settings.
When using a VPN, the user IP address can be hidden from the websites they visit but if they allow the website to access their geolocation, their location details will no longer remain private.
Typically, the browser should ask for user permission before giving websites access to user data, but it is also possible that it won’t. Giving access to user data may cause a web page to block the user if it does not give permission to connections from the user location.
If a site can identify user geolocation even when the user has a VPN running, the first thing they should do is ascertain that their IP is not leaked by visiting ipleak.com. If an IP address belongs to either the user’s Internet Service Provider (ISP) or the user personally, the culprit is not HTML5 geolocation, but IP leak.
Once it is ensured that an IP leak is not the issue, the user may try to disable the geolocation feature manually in their browser settings.
It is not uncommon for streaming services like BBC iPlayer and Netflix to block users using VPNs. This happens because several users use VPNs to watch videos that are delimited to viewers in some countries for licensing reasons. However, it is crucial to comprehend that these services, somehow, do not know the actual location of a user. They just keep a database of IPs that belong to VPN services and block users who try to access these services using one of those IPs.
Hence, disabling browser geolocation and averting IP leaks will do nothing to overawe such an effective yet simple tactic.
Disabling the HTML5 Geolocation Feature
If a user wishes to completely disable geolocation, they may use the following methods:
On desktop, go to Menu > Settings > Advanced > Privacy and security > Content settings > Location and slide “Ask before accessing (recommended)” to Blocked.
The method for disabling geolocation on the chrome on your phone is exactly the same as above except go to Menu (⋮) first, then settings then site settings and then location.
Go to Safari on the taskbar then go to preferences then websites and then location, select “deny” for any listed sites for restricting them to use your geolocation.
To avert all websites from accessing the data, select “Deny” for the option “when visiting other websites”.
Go to Setting > Privacy > Location Services > Disable it.
Go to Windows Start > Settings > Privacy > Location > Disable.
Go to Menu > Internet Options > Privacy tab > Location and tick “never allow websites to request your physical location”
Go to Menu > Settings > Websites > Location and select “Do not allow any site to track my physical location.”
Despite the benefits, the geolocation technology can be an invasion of privacy but since the feature is opt-in by default, one can easily disable it which is great news for people, conscious about privacy.
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