How Does Google Know My Location Using a VPN

If you have location history enabled, you can view your location history and web history by logging into your Google account. This feature stores everywhere you’ve been and everything that you’ve searched for on Google, which can make it easier for Google to target you with location-based advertisements.

How Does Google Know Your Location Even When You Use a VPN?

Google location feature

Privacy Tutor

If you use a VPN (Virtual Private Network), you may think your online activity and location are hidden from prying eyes. However, Google is known to be able to determine your location, even when you’re using a VPN. In this article, we will look at how Google knows your location and what you can do to keep your location private when using a VPN.

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Stop Google from tracking you when using a VPN

If you’re short on time and want a quick answer to stop Google from tracking you when using a VPN, here’s what you need to know.

Google uses a variety of methods to determine your real location, even when you’re using a VPN.

These methods include device sensor data and browser geolocation, among others.

The best way to stop Google from tracking you is to use a private or incognito browsing session alongside your VPN.

Alternatively, you can log out of your Google accounts or disable your location services altogether.

However, for a more in-depth look into how to prevent Google from tracking your location while using a VPN, be sure to read the full article.

How VPNs Work

VPNs create an encrypted connection between your device and a VPN server. All your internet traffic passes through this connection before reaching its destination, making it much harder for others to intercept or monitor your activity. VPNs also hide your IP address, which is a unique identifier associated with your device and location.

How Google Knows Your Location Even When You Use a VPN

Although using a VPN can hide your IP address and encrypt your internet traffic, it doesn’t completely cloak your location. There are several ways that Google can determine your location, even when using a VPN:

Google and Wi-Fi Networks

When your device is connected to Wi-Fi, it is constantly sending out signals to access points in the area. This can be used to triangulate your location, even if you’re not actively using Google services.

Google can take advantage of this by keeping a database of Wi-Fi access points and their known locations, a system also called Wi-Fi location tracking. When you connect to a Wi-Fi network, Google can use these access points to determine your approximate location, even when you’re using a VPN.

In fact, Google Street View cars have been driving around the world for years, taking photographs and collecting data about access points and their locations.

This enables them to keep their database as accurate as possible. Google has faced criticism in the past over this practice, as it can also collect data about unsecured Wi-Fi networks, which can potentially include sensitive information.

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Google Services

If you’re logged into your Google account when using a VPN, Google can still track you. This is because Google keeps track of location information through various services, like Google Maps, Google search, and Google sites.

For instance, when you perform a Google search, Google tracks your geographical location to provide more relevant search results, local businesses, and other location-based information.

Similarly, when you use Google Maps on your computer, Google asks for your location information to provide you with more accurate directions based on your current location. Additionally, when you visit Google sites, some of them require access to your location information for features like weather updates or search suggestions based on your location.

Location History

Google’s location history feature is another way that it can track your location, even when using a VPN. This feature stores everywhere you’ve been using the internet, including your location when you were using a VPN. For instance, Google tracks your location history through GPS, Wi-Fi access points, and cell tower triangulation to create an accurate history of your movements.

If you have location history enabled, you can view your location history and web history by logging into your Google account. This feature stores everywhere you’ve been and everything that you’ve searched for on Google, which can make it easier for Google to target you with location-based advertisements.

Google and your IP Address

Although VPNs hide your actual IP address and provide you with a different one, it’s not a foolproof method for keeping your location private. Google already knows your real IP address, and it can use this information to determine your actual location.

Moreover, potential VPN detection and VPN blocking can also expose your real IP address when using a VPN. Websites with VPN detection can determine whether you’re using a VPN service, and ISPs or employers can block access to VPN servers. When the VPN is blocked or detected, your real IP address and actual location information is revealed.

How Does Google Know My Location Using a VPN?

Privacy and security while browsing the internet are growing concerns for most of us. Why?

Tracking is everywhere. Advertisers track the websites we visit so they can send ads that might interest us. Hackers collect as much information about us as possible so they can steal our identity. Governments are more serious than ever about collecting every piece of information they can about us.

Fortunately, VPN services are an effective solution. They hide your real IP address so that the websites you visit won’t know where you’re located. They also encrypt your traffic so that your ISP and employer can’t log your browsing history.

But they don’t seem to fool Google. Many people report that Google seems to know users’ real locations even when using a VPN.

For example, Google sites show the language of the user’s original country, and Google Maps initially displays a location close to where the user lives.

How do they do it? We don’t really know. We do know that Google’s a huge company with boatloads of money, and they hire smart people who like to solve puzzles. They seem to have solved this one!

Google hasn’t published how they determine your location, so I can’t give you a definitive answer.

But here are three methods they are likely to use.

Table of Contents

  • 1. You’re Logged Into Your Google Account
  • 2. The Wireless Networks You’re Near Give Away Your Location
  • 3. They May Ask Your Web Browser to Reveal Your Local IP address
  • So What Should You Do?

1. You’re Logged Into Your Google Account

If you’re logged into your Google account, Google knows who you are, or at least who you told them you are. At some point, you may have given them some information about which part of the world you live in.

Perhaps you told Google Maps your home and work locations. Even navigating using Google Maps lets the company know where you are.

If you’re an Android user, Google probably knows where you are. Your phone’s GPS sends that information to them. It may continue to let them know even after you turn GPS tracking off.

The IDs of the cell phone towers you connect to can give away your location. Some Android features are location-specific and may provide clues to your whereabouts.

2. The Wireless Networks You’re Near Give Away Your Location

It’s possible to work out your location by triangulating from the wireless networks you’re closest to. Google has a massive database of where many network names are. Your computer or device’s Wi-Fi card provides a list of every network you’re close to.

Those databases were built in part by Google Street View cars. They collected Wi-Fi data as they drove around taking photos—something they found themselves in trouble for in 2010 and again in 2019.

They also use this information combined with your phone’s GPS to verify your location when using Google Maps.

3. They May Ask Your Web Browser to Reveal Your Local IP address

Your web browser knows your local IP address. It’s possible to store that information in a cookie accessible by Google’s websites and services.

If you have Java installed on your computer, a webmaster just needs to insert a single line of code into their website to read your real IP address without asking your permission.

So What Should You Do?

Realize that a VPN will fool most people most of the time, but probably not Google. You could go to a lot of trouble to try to fake them out, but I don’t think it’s worth the effort.

You’d have to sign out of your Google account and change the name of your home network. Then, you’ll need to convince your neighbors to change theirs, too.

If you have an Android phone, you’ll need to install a GPS spoofing app that gives Google a false location. After that, you need to surf using your browser’s private mode so that no cookies are saved.

Even then, you’ll probably miss something. You could spend a few hours Googling the topic for more clues, and then Google would be aware of your searches.

Personally, I accept that Google knows a great deal about me, and in return, I receive quite a lot of value from their services.

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