Modern browsers including Chrome, Firefox and Internet Explorer now include “geolocation” services based in the browser. What this does is attempt to locate you based on your IP, wi-fi or network location. It is used for several reasons, including adding a location to your tweets or Facebook updates, or to locate you on a map. You might want to hide or fake this location IP due to privacy concerns, and it isn’t too terribly hard to do so.
What Is Geolocation?
Geolocation is a technology that locates your position on the planet and ties it into your web browser (or other application). A couple of services work to provide location services in your web browser. One is a Google service that looks at your IP and connected network information and matches it up to known locations, Microsoft runs another similar service. Apple uses the internal service CoreLocation to locate you across a variety of services. Geolocation has a lot of useful applications, but it also has some serious privacy implications.
Turning Off Geolocation
Turning off the location features in either browser is fairly easy. When you are first given the chance to allow or deny location in Firefox, you can disable it right from that menu. If you have already allowed it, go to the configuration settings by typing about:config in your browser window. Find the setting geo.enabled and double click it to set it to “false.”
In Google Chrome, the settings are in -> Options -> Under The Hood -> Content Settings -> Location:
Set the option “Do not allow any site to track my physical location” to disable geolocation in Chrome.
In Internet Explorer 9 you can also disable location services. Go into Internet options -> Privacy. Select “Never allow websites to track your physical location.”
Faking Your Location
The easiest browser to fake your location in is Firefox. In fact, there is a browser extension that does just that called Geolocater (sic).
Download and install Geolocater and restart your browser. To configure it, you must go into the “Tools” menu, so right click at the top of your browser and enable the file menu to gain access to configuration.
When you launch it, you must add a new location and include the name to save it. Search or browse to the location you wish to set, enter the name in the box on the right, and then click the button that looks like a kite with a check mark to save it.
Next time you go to a website that has geolocation enabled, you will be able to change which location you want to send to them and then “Share” to fake your location.
There is another alternative that works both in Firefox and Chrome, but you will need to do some editing of files to make it happen.
The way these geolocation services work is by requesting a file from Google which then responds with your location in JSON format. To fake this in Firefox, you can create a file on your computer with this text:
You can find this location by locating it in Google Maps or any other maps program that supports Latitude and Longitude. Google maps generates a link that looks like the following:
In this case the first number is the latitude and the second the longitude.
You can place this in a plain text file on your computer, then update the Firefox setting in about:config named geo.wifi.uri to the location on your computer. In Windows, it will look something like this:
Make sure if there are any spaces in the directory to replace them with %20 for proper encoding. Restart Firefox and your location will show the updated information.
Location Is Disabled – But You Can Still Be Tracked
Even though location services have been disabled or faked, a great deal of information about where you are located is sent just by using the Internet. Your IP address can narrow your location down to your country and maybe even the city you are located in. Just be aware that unless you use a VPN, your location can still be tracked based on that information.