Now more than ever your location is collected from various sites and apps. Find out how to keep your location secure when on your phone or computer.
How To Block Geo Tracking On My Phone, Tablet And Laptop
If you haven’t yet I am sure you will soon be asking yourself an important question. A question whose cause is plaguing the Internet and putting you at risk. What am I talking about, what is this important question? Well my friends, I’m talking about Geo-tracking and your privacy. The question; how to get all those websites to stop tracking my cell phone’s location? It’s understandable when a map app needs to know where you are, how else can it determine the correct directions to give you? What I and many other Internet users are wondering is why so many apps and websites, which are seemingly irrelevant to my location, need to know where we are? And more importantly, just what is being done with that information? In many cases data collection is innocent but the fact remains, when your location is known anywhere on the Internet, it may as well be known everywhere because we all know how safe and secure the Internet is. In worst case scenarios, in heavily censored countries, blocking geo-location could mean the difference between life and death.
The #1 Reason To Avoid Geo-Location On The Internet
- The #1 reason to avoid geo-location on the internet, whether it be on phone tablet or computer, is to unlock geo-restricted TV! Yes, that’s right. There is a whole world of content available across the Internet and much of it (such Netflix US library, unrestricted YouTube, the BBC and more) is only available to residents or those physically located in that country. You can unlock this type of content with IP masking VPN technology or with Smart DNS.
Tips And Tricks To Protect Your Location Information While Using The Internet
This is our list of things that you can do to help ensure that your location is not being tracked. The list is not fool-proof, some methods are more complicated than others and there are always weaknesses when it comes to digital security.
1. How to Block Your Location Data:
The very simplest method to help protect your location data from being broadcast across the Internet is to block it. This is easy to do, most browsers, phone operating systems and Apps will give you the option to “allow location services” or not to track you, all you have to do is turn it off. Of course, this will only stop extraneous broadcast of your location because if you don’t use a more active method of security, your IP address is pretty much known to every server on the Internet. Regardless, it is still an important brick in your wall of security and is recommended left off for best effect. Taking this a step further, it is possible to go into your browser’s settings and have a “do not track” HTTP header added to your outgoing connection. This header will tell other servers not to track your progress but has two major drawbacks: the servers you connect to must already be configured for this header and its use is one more point that can be used to ID you through digital fingerprinting.
2. TOR/The Onion Network
The Onion Network, known as TOR, is a free to use data transfer network that uses encryption and a multi-layer system of servers and routers to anonymize data transfers. This service is a fine way to keep data safe and anonymous while it is in transfer but in fact does little to protect the sender or the recipient from data breach or attack. TOR does not encrypt, encapsulate or in any other way protect you and your location from the point of origin, i.e. your phone, tablet or laptop. Your connection to the TOR network is easily tracked and is susceptible to a number of attacks that can block the flow of data and/or track it back to the source node and on to you. What’s even worse is that many if not all of the TOR nodes are operated by third party volunteers whose location security may or may not be up to current best practices.
3. DNS Leak Testing
The number 3 weakness of all security measures and something that should be checked regularly is DNS leaks. The DNS or Domain Name Server is a server whose purpose is to direct Internet traffic. It turns local addresses into IP addresses that other servers and routers can use to send and receive information. A leak occurs when your security measures allow other Internet users to see your own ISP and IP address information, providing them an avenue to track your location and Internet habits. One method to help control leaks is to clear your cookies. Cookies can sometimes have information stored on them that can reveal your location even if you have plugged all your DNS leaks. Testing for leaks is easy, there are many websites on the Internet that can do it for you for free, simply search for DNS leak testing. Some security protocols, such as a secure VPN, will include a DNS leak protection as part of their package but more on that later. Going a step further you can test to see what kind of leaks your browser is allowing at a website called Browserleaks.com, the information there can be used to help determine what modifications your security scheme may need.
4. Turn Off Your Cookies
This is by no means a fix-all for DNS and other tracking issues but it can be a big help when used alongside more active security measures. Of course, it can also have a negative affect on your web surfing experience too, it just depends on the cookie. Most websites if not all of them will install a cookie on your device. They are used to track your habits while on the web and their use is not limited to online retailers. While a cookie planted on your device by Wal-Mart used to help deliver the best selections right to your fingertips may be OK-one planted by any agency, government or not, used to track you, your location and your habits is a different story. All you have to do is go into your web browser’s settings and opt to “Turn Cookies Off”.
5. Virtual Machines
Your connections with the Internet are not the only avenue of entry into your systems. Files of all variety ranging from PDF’s to JPEGS, .DOC’s, .JS, .JAR and many more are capable of carrying executable codes that can breach your network, do damage to your system, put your identity and location at risk. A virtual machine is just what it sounds like, a virtual computer. It is in fact an operating system running on a remote server that can support Applications and other functions commonly performed on the operating system of a physical computer. Users can log in from their device, switch to the virtual machine, and then use it to open suspect files. This can be especially useful for people who fear geo-location by censors or hostile governments who may be using planted files. The downside is that there is still risk of having your connections discovered because the Virtual Machine offers little else in the way of security.
6. Virtual Machine, The Next Level
For those who really want to use the idea of virtual machines to its fullest potential it is possible to boot up a live OS from a USB stick or other memory device and run it locally. The benefits are clear, instead of remotely connecting to a VM where the connection itself is at risk this runs the VM without the need of Internet connection. Of course, if you use it to connect to the Internet risks begin to emerge. The VM will help ensure anonymity and may include data encryption but the connections will nonetheless be traceable by those with hostile intentions. If the connection is intercepted it could be traced back to the source regardless of their knowledge of your identity.
7. Manage Your Plug-Ins
Browser management is an important part of maintaining Internet security and protecting your location information. This includes managing your plug-ins as they are weak spots in many security schemes that can leak data even while other measures are in place. To be clear, a plug-in is any piece of software, third part proprietary or otherwise, that can be installed and function within another operating environment. Easy examples of plug-ins are third party functionality added to an eCommerce website such as a payment solution or social media icons. Hostile plug-ins include software whose purpose is to root out your information and/or track your browsing habits. To maintain the highest level of anonymity we recommend avoiding plug-ins altogether, the downside of course being that many of today’s websites can’t function without them. The best approach is to configure your system so that it has to ask permission to run a plug-in, then be sure to isolate them to run in “sand box” mode for added security.
9. Anti-Tracking Software
There are anti-tracking software services out there such as Ghostery. This little gem allows you block all kinds of tracking software from one easy to use dashboard and will even tell you which tracking services are being used by the websites you visit. While a great tool for blocking websites from actively tracking you, it does though nothing in terms of security or protecting your location from prying eyes, so be ware when using it. Privacy Badger is another software service helping to prevent online snooping. It detects when websites try to track you and remembers them so it can block future attempts. Again, it is a great tool to help prevent loss of privacy but does not provide a high level of security on it’s own.
10. HTTPS Everywhere Extension
HTTPS Everywhere is an extension for your outgoing connections that forces other websites to use SSL encryption when you connect with them. SSL, Secure Socket Layer, is a simple form of VPN that uses encryption to enhance privacy and security while connecting consumers with websites. They are most often encountered when checking out of an eCommerce site but also found in many other places around the web. In fact, most websites support level of SSL encryption but default to less secure connections for a variety of reason including loading speed. Using the extension prevents websites from defaulting to that less secure connection, if the website supports SSL. Again, a brick in the security wall but not a total solution.
11. Avoid Google Tracking
Google, in many respects, is the Internet. Everyone who consumes the Internet interacts with Google in some way. Those that use it for search, knowingly or not (many of the search bars found on your favorite websites are powered by Google, FYI) are subject to one of the search engines many methods of tracking. Have you ever noticed how clicking on a Google link, or trying to copy and paste a Google supplied link, results in a very messy, very long redirect tracking link instead of the plain-Jane URL you were trying to find? Well, that is how Google tracks your use of it and any other data it can glean from you and your connection. To avoid this, use simple add-ons like SearchLinkFix to completely eliminate Google tracking.
12. Turn Off Web RTC
Web RTC, or Web Real Time Configuration, allows web browsers to request real time information from other browsers and servers. This means that another computer or server could request information about your device that could be provided, including the real IP address and other identifying details, even if using IP masking software. Firefox users can manage this setting directly in the browser by going to about:config and setting media.peer.connection to False. Others will need to install software such as Ublock Origin to prevent this type of data leak.
13. Digital Fingerprinting
I’ve mentioned a few times already how certain aspects of Internet security are flawed because they can be used to generate a profile, or digital fingerprint, of you and your devices. Several website around the net will check your set-up for these tell-tales and generate a report to help you avoid this pitfall.
14. Social Media
For true anonymity you will have to avoid social media but for those of us who just want to access it over a secure connection, and use it securely, there is one rule to follow. Give as little information about yourself and your location as possible to prevent geo-location tracking. Geo-tagging features are typically left off unless wanted but it’s always a good idea to check to be sure. Avoid using this feature and do not name your location in posts.
15. VPN, Virtual Private Network
A VPN or a Virtual Private Network is by far the best method of concealing your location, protecting your data and ensuring secure internet connections. This technology is the culmination of private sector and government research currently in use today. It encrypts your data in an unreadable file, it encapsulates your data in a secure packet with a brand new anonymous IP address, it includes authentication markers for the end point so only it can read the data, it routes your connection through secure remote servers, it masks your IP address and it does it all from within your own files creating a shield that is hard to see, tough to crack and nearly impossible to track. Where all other attempts to prevent the loss of data or geo-location are imperfect security measures at best, VPN is the technology that fills in the gaps.
Top providers like Le VPN support a number of protocols with varying degrees of security. The lowest level is great for securely surfing the web or unlocking geo-restricted content, the highest are perfect the most stringent security needs. The most important thing to note is that all are good for keeping your IP information safe and there are even protocols to block GPS tracking on Android and other mobile devices. If you are asking yourself, how can I hide location tracking on my phone, the answer is a VPN configured for mobile security.
The benefit of choosing a VPN over other methods of protecting your location is that a VPN is an end-to-end solution that creates a secure, encrypted, connection that begins with your device and ends at the destination URL, there is almost no need for anything else except using best practices when surfing the web. The need is clear, the solution is clear, why wait? To protect your phone and other devices from location tracking get Le VPN now.
*Article updated on July 19th, 2018*
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