If you think about it carefully enough, you will come to realize that just a decade ago no one even cared about terms such as geolocation and geo-restrictions.
Not anymore though.
With the exponential rise of technology products such as laptops, tablets and smartphone devices, the entire world has truly entered the era of mass surveillance.
In this new era, we have these things called geolocation services that have the ability to pinpoint the location of the user right down to the street the user is currently living in.
No reader of ours should have any misconceptions about the fact that geolocation and other such features definitively have their advantages.
Whenever a given user is mall hopping, it is these features such as geolocation and others that allow the user to know all the hot deals on a given day.
Not only that, but geolocation features also enable users to know the directions to the absolute nearest petrol station.
And most of us are now old enough to know how useful a feature like geolocation is on one of those lonesome highways.
Geolocation features are awesome when they want to be.
However, all the knowledge that geolocation features provide to users come at a significant price.
And we feel that everyone needs to have some awareness of that price before they go ahead and use geolocation features all the time.
The greatest price that you have to give away for using geolocation features is your privacy.
So how do you go about spotting a website that makes use of geolocation features?
Well, our research shows that one of the easiest methods with which you can actually spot if a given website is making use of geolocation features is when it pops up a message on your screen with a notification like,
this given website would like to know your physical location.
Chances are that you have already seen such notifications.
Well, the next time you see them know that the site that you are visiting is trying to access your location and wants to know more about you.
Now, we are totally aware of the fact that this may or may not cause problems to users.
In fact, some may feel that it is necessary for sites to do that.
The point that we want to make here is that you do not have to agree to such terms.
Moreover, online consumers should know when and where they too can exercise their online rights.
This is the critical point that we will further explore throughout the duration of this guide.
So what is geolocation?
In terms of precise definition, there is none.
But in very simple terms, you should know that geolocation represents the approximate location of the user in real time.
These features work with the help of the mobile device that has an internet connection.
In other words, users should know that their location is actually directly tied with their device that has an internet connection.
We are not saying that this is wrong but it never hurts to learn more about the stuff that you make use of on a daily basis.
The other thing is that, if the user leaves an internet-enabled device with active and working geolocation permissions at any given place, then the user’s recorded physical location for that given moment would be the place where the device is.
With that said, you should also know that internet-enabled devices such as fitness trackers and smartwatch devices cover each and every step that the user takes while wearing them.
How does geolocation compromise my online safety?
We’ll tell you how.
The thing about your internet-enabled smartphone device is that it has a full and built-in GPS system.
You do not need us to confirm that this system provides everything that you need to get location-based services.
Not only that, but there are certain mobile apps such as Uber, Instagram, Facebook and many others that may want to make use of your geolocation in order to carry out a variety of tasks.
Now, we have already mentioned the fact that such facilities are not without their own merits.
We have already touched upon a couple of examples where geolocation features can prove themselves to be quite handy.
And it is true that in certain contexts it is entirely possible for a given service to make good use of geolocation.
Think about a scenario where you are somewhere you do not know very well and are stuck.
Maybe you are in a city that you do not know anything about or are even away from civilization for a bit.
In such a case, if your smartphone device is tracking you then that could actually save your precious life.
Needless to say, the same thing is true for people who want hot deals all the time and those one-hour only discount sales at various well-known shops.
With that said, we do not think that in order to receive such benefits one should be forced to keep services such as geolocation turned to ON all day long, each and every day of the week.
It is the user’s device and hence the user should have every right to use it as he/she sees fit.
If you do not exercise some sort of caution while making use of geolocation features then you basically expose yourself to a number of legitimate risks.
To take an example, if you are willing to share your physical location via your device all the time with only the people and organizations that you trust then that is perfectly okay.
In fact, we suggest that all users should turn on location-based services for people and services that they trust for a variety of safety reasons.
There are many other reasons to do so as well.
However, things change dramatically when you have a multiple number of mobile apps accessing your geolocation all the time.
Moreover, it gets even worse when the user has very little control over who and what is trying to access their geo-location.
To take an example, let’s assume for a second that you made a post on Facebook that is geo-tagged via the official Facebook app.
Now, the thing is that if you have not put in the time to actually hide your Facebook post then the post would become visible to anyone and everyone.
You may not want that.
Another significant consideration is the fact that sometimes you may have children and turning on geolocation features may open them up for further risk.
We know for sure that now there are no kids living in this world who do not have access to smartphone devices.
That holds true at least for the rich world if not for places such as Asia and Africa.
And the problem with that is, bad actors can take advantage of such facts and then use geolocation features for their own nefarious ends.
Hence, you should not need any more convincing that if you are a parent then you need to take some extra steps as precautions to ensure your children’s online safety.
More precisely, you should know exactly what your kids are doing on their internet-enabled devices most of the time if not all the time.
Any and all permission put children at risk both in the online world and in the offline world.
And some of those permissions have a lot to do with features such as geolocations.
Hackers can also make use of geolocation features to compromise a given user’s GPS data.
Believe us when we say that organizations and certain groups do not have to work hard to collect all user data by making use of any phone resources that the user may have on his/her internet-enabled device.
And unless you actually deselect all such options, you may be putting yourself under undue danger.
Then there are some other factors that actually compound the problem of letting geolocation turned on all the time.
Those other factors include complete unawareness on part of the users who do not even know that geolocation problems exist in the online world.
So, they may actually put their personal information somewhere completely unsafe and have that information recorded and not even know about it.
Someone could make use of that information and share it with anyone and everyone without the user’s permission.
Now we are not going to suggest that every time you make such mistakes on the internet you will get punished.
But it is an unnecessary danger that you do not need to involve yourself with.
Risks do not always lead to bad outcomes.
But that does not mean that you should not pay any attention to issues such as online security and privacy.
In fact, we would not hesitate to wager that keeping yourself safe in the online world should take precedence over anything and everything that you may want to share on any given online social media platform.
How to disable web-browser geolocation features
As mentioned before, there are a lot of websites on the internet that experience a high volume of traffic each and every day.
They may ask each user for his/her location.
And they may not have the right protocols to protect that information before they actually ask for permission.
But that is beside the point.
Ultimately, the user has to make the choice of whether or not he/she wants to offer his/her geolocation information to the site or not.
So, let us enumerate some of the steps that users just like yourself can take in order to turn off permission features related to automatic geolocation.
- First, perform a click on the Google Chrome menu button which appears either in the shape of three vertical dots or three horizontal lines typically in the top right corner of the screen.
- Then you need to make your way to Google Chrome Settings menu.
- From there we want you to go to the Advanced option.
- Then you need to go to Privacy and Security. Once there you should click on the option that says Content settings.
- After that, you should be able to find the segment related to Location.
- Then you need to turn on the related option which says something like ask before location access (Recommended)
- First, we are going to assume that you are on the Windows 10 platform. You need to go to the place that is now known as the Action Center.
- From there you need to go to Settings.
- And then you need to choose the option that says Privacy.
- After that, you need to click on the option that says Location.
- When that is done, you should find the slider related to Location History.
- Then you need to set it to OFF.
- After that, you need to click the option that says Clear.
- First, you need to go to the official address bar of the browser. Then you need to type the text enterabout:config
- When that is done, you should have no problems in seeing a notification in the form of a pop up informing you that ‘this might void your warranty’. Ignore this message and click on the button that says I accept all the risks.
- Once that is done you need to go to the official Mozilla Firefox search bar again. And then type in there entergeo.enabled.
- You need to click on this option twice and you should see the geo.enabled preference changing its value to something like FALSE.
Some more web browser tricks and tips.
There are some other things that you can do to further protect your location from invaders.
You can go to the settings menu of your digital camera or smartphone device and then deselect the option that says GPS there.
This tip is especially useful for those people who like to share lots of images from there smartphone devices and cameras.
We suggest that everyone should do so as it is a wise action.
Now, the exact step by step process on how to turn off various geo-location features would vary from device to device.
But the general steps are the same.
Apart from that, you need to check if any of your Internet-enabled devices and the apps on them have location permissions.
If they have, then turn all of them to off.
The next bit is for users who like to use a lot of social media platforms.
There you need to do things to make sure that only the people that you trust are able to see and access the stuff that you want to share.
That privilege should not be extended to anyone else.
What does that mean for the end user?
This means that you need to disable geolocation features on any photos that you have taken or any other type of evidence which can indicate the places that you have gone to or frequent in your neighborhood regularly.
In a similar way, by default, you should have settings which keep all of the information that is related to your family, friends, co-workers and other people that you know off limits to anyone else.
In the end, though, the thing we want you to understand is there, you and only you are responsible for all the videos and photos that you share on the internet for others to see.
And only you should have the ability to decide who gets access to what.
The majority of the online social media platforms now offer a reasonably complex post audience selection features.
These become available as soon as you share a post on the platform.
And we suggest you use those options in order to make sure that the posts that you make on the internet are visible only to those people that you trust and are comfortable with.
We want to let you know in these concluding thoughts that the sites that you visit regularly and the apps that you make use of the most have lots of other ways to track you and pinpoint your real location other than location and GPS services.
There is also your IP address that is as good as anything to give your real physical location away to anyone and everyone.
Hence, if you just stop at disabling your location services then you are leaving yourself open to other risks.
You should do more.
We suggest that you consider it absolutely critical to hide your real IP address.
And the best method to do that which we know of is by making use of a VPN service or a Virtual Private Network.
Click here if you want to read up on the best VPN service providers in the world right now for various different tasks and types of users.