Can websites see your physical location?

The Internet pages we access have various methods available to determine our geographical location. For example, the IP address of the device gives them clues about this information, unless we use a VPN. Not only that, in other cases they get much more accurate data. Therefore, in this article we want to answer two questions. On the one hand, «can websites to see your physical location? ». And to the immediate confirmation about that, “how can we prevent them from doing it?”

What does our IP address say to websites?

This is one of the key issues, considering that each Internet service provider provides us with a public IP address. Therefore, all the devices on our home network share that IP address.

Thus, when we connect to a portal, that site will be able to see what our IP address is, connecting the computer to it and providing those details without any type of restrictions. The packets are then transmitted through network routers and the IP address of those packets tells the routers where to go. But we don’t have to worry, websites don’t track our exact location.

What they do thanks to the IP address is to link our position with a region or city, or postal code. This helps them to show us advertisements related to the territories where we live.

You can enter pages like Keycdn, to check what types of data the websites display.

There are even cases in which these systems do not work, and we are located far from where we really are.

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Websites may request your precise location

However, at the same time we must consider that when websites want to know our location with 100% accuracy, they ask us specifically about it. Without going any further, modern web browsers display a permission request in the kind of situations we are describing.

One of the best examples of this is weather websites, which need to know your exact location to give you an accurate forecast report. Or food delivery and other e-commerce websites.

Remember that when you give this permission to any Internet page, it will not ask you about it again every time you enter, but it will place you where you are by default.

Google asks for location in Chrome for Windows 10

As we said, it is very likely that you have already granted these permissions to websites about your location. How then to know which ones we have given this freedom to? Well, if you use Chrome to navigate, it’s very easy:

Open the Chrome browser Go to Menu and then to Settings There to Site Settings Finally to Location You will see a list of websites under the Allow heading. Those are the enabled ones

You should also be able to see a kind of placemark indicator in Chrome’s address bar when a website has accessed your location and you have it open. Other browsers also have similar functions, so you just have to look for the same section according to which one you usually use.

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How the different teams can find our location

The ways in which the different devices can find our location depend, above all, on their characteristics. If you use a phone or tablet with built-in GPS, this element will be in charge of telling the websites where you are. That happens on iPhone, iPad, Android and tablets with Windows 10.

Meanwhile, in case you are using a computer, then WiFi related services appear on the scene. When we look for WiFi networks in our vicinity, and from the intensity level of each one of them, we can estimate our location if we want the portal in question to see it.

And what happens if we use a computer connected to an Ethernet cable, going from WiFi? Then you will not be able to provide a precise physical location to the websites, but only of the city or region in which you are located.

Location information by Big Data and cross references

On the other hand, and at this point, we cannot lose sight of the fact that websites and advertising networks cross-reference data. Therefore, they can link your IP to a physical address without problems.

For example, if you have several devices connected to your network and all with the same IP address, which is quite common, any site that accesses the location of one of them will associate it with all the others.

For sure, we do not know how many companies carry out these practices but, considering the accuracy that web advertising has reached right now, we can assume that there are several.

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VPNs, the key to hiding your location

If you really want to hide your physical location from a website, you can use a VPN to achieve extra levels of privacy. Remember that when we access a page through a VPN, it connects directly to the VPN server and the VPN server connects to the website on your behalf. It works as an intermediary.

In this way, the website will see the IP address of the VPN, which will be the one you decide according to the program’s options. But the site won’t know what your real IP address is, by calling it somehow.

This is the explanation about why you can watch Netflix from the United States in Spain, skipping all the limitations and differences that exist between the different versions of this service.

Either way, keep in mind that, even using a VPN, you can give websites access to let them know your real location, if you think that might be of use to you at some point.

If you liked this article and are interested in taking your privacy to the next level, you probably want to know how to disable precise location in iOS 14 or how to prevent Google from saving location history. Thanks to these simple tricks you can sleep more peacefully every day.

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