How Do Websites Know My Location?
How Do Websites Know My Location?
If you’ve ever logged into a website or used Google and noticed that it displays your exact geographical location, then you’ve probably wondered how on earth it’s possible. Most people jump to the conclusion that their device’s GPS location service is giving up their position. However, this is just one of the multiple different ways that websites can track where you’re located.
For the most part, websites aren’t tracking you maliciously. In fact, the main goal of tracking you is actually to enhance your user experience. For example, when Google or a certain website knows your location, they can display specific products, businesses, and services that are available in your area. This, in turn, makes it easier for you to find what you’re looking for. It’s what allows you to type in “Best Italian food near me” and get immediate results.
That being said, not everybody likes being tracked. Perhaps you’re exchanging private information and data on websites or maybe you’d prefer that the FBI doesn’t know what movies you watch in your free time. Whatever the case may be, we’re about to show you how to stop it.
In today’s post, we’ll show you all of the different methods that websites use to track you online. Then, we’ll show you how to prevent websites from tracking you by using a VPN service, anonymous browsers, and disabling GPS location. It’s time to get anonymous!
How Websites Track You Online
First, let’s answer the question at hand, “How do websites know my location?” Just like a doctor, you’ll need to know what’s going on before you can try to fix it or prevent it. So, here are all of the various ways that websites can track you online.
1. Your IP Address: The most common way that websites track you while you’re online is by viewing your IP address. Each IP address is unique and is given out by your internet service provider (ISP).
This means that your IP address can be used to trace you back to your exact city, state, and country. Hackers who have access to advanced triangulation software (or the FBI) can go one step further and use your IP address to trace you back to your home. You can check your own IP address right now by visiting www.whatismyipaddress.com.
So, what are cookies?
Simply put, cookies are small bits of data that are stored on your internet browser by websites. The main purpose of cookies is to make your browsing experience more seamless by allowing the same sites to load quicker the next time you visit. However, these cookies can also be used to track you and may be shared with social media platforms, allowing them to advertise to you against your will.
3. HTTP Refer: HTTP references are generally used by affiliate websites. For example, if you’re reading this blog and end up signing up for one of the VPN services we’ve reviewed by clicking a link from our site, then we’ll receive a small commission if you end up signing up and paying for a subscription.
The way that the VPN service knows that we referred you is through HTTP reference. This, in turn, allows us to receive a commission and helps pay our team to keep providing you with great content!
4. User Agent Data: User agents aren’t commonly discussed and are often misunderstood. Like cookies, though, user agent data is used to share information about your device to websites so they can market to you in the future.
Whenever you arrive on a website’s landing page, your browser exchanges data about your device with the website. This data typically includes information about your operating system and your IP address, which can be used to track you.
5. Your Browser Footprint: Another thing that many internet users don’t know about is that their browser itself can give them away! You see, your browser leaves a unique footprint that displays your personal settings and even your geographic location, based on your IP address.
6. GPS Location: Last but not least, your browser may be transmitting GPS data to websites you visit. The only way to prevent this is to turn off your device’s GPS location service. If you’re on a smartphone, this can usually be done by accessing the main drop-down menu from the home screen. If you’re on a laptop, you may have to access some deeper control settings.
Tips For Staying Anonymous Online
Alright, now that you know how websites know your location, let’s take a few minutes to go over some helpful tips that you can employ to stay anonymous online. Luckily, all of these methods are easy and/or affordable!
Use a Reputable VPN While Browsing
The best method, by far, for staying anonymous online is to connect your device to a virtual private network (VPN) while you’re browsing the internet or using web-based applications. A VPN is a secure, encrypted, and external server that re-routes all of your internet data and information through their server, which is located in another country or a different region of your own country.
This effectively masks your IP address, preventing websites from knowing your exact location. Some of the really nice VPN services, like CyberGhost VPN and Surfshark VPN, also feature built-in browser extensions that go above and beyond to prevent cookies from being stored on your device and prevent any other forms of website tracking.
Frequently Delete Your Browser’s Cookies
This is less of a solution and more of a “band-aid.” One way to at least limit websites’ ability to track your location is to frequently delta your browser cookies. This can be accomplished by accessing your privacy settings from within your browser. The obvious drawback of this method, though, is that cookies will continue to be embedded on your device unless you’re using a VPN or cookie blocker.
Browse In Incognito Mode
If you want to create a more private session and prevent any cookies from being stored on your device, then you can always activate your browser’s incognito mode. While you’re in incognito mode, no cookies will be stored on your browser and your internet history won’t be stored.
Use The Tor Browser
If you like the idea of a more secure, harder-to-track browser, then you might consider downloading the Tor browser on your device. Although the Tor browser is most commonly associated with browsing the dark web, it can also be used to access the regular “clearnet.”
What makes the Tor browser so appealing is that it masks your IP address (although not as effectively as a VPN server), doesn’t save your browsing history, doesn’t store cache data in your computer’s memory, and doesn’t allow sites to embed cookies.
Today, websites will do just about anything to improve their chances of marketing to you and get you to stay involved in the constant cycle of consumerism. However, the good news is that you can prevent websites from tracking you or knowing your location by using a good VPN while browsing, deleting your cookies, and practicing anonymous browsing techniques with the Tor browser.