Is it possible to find your physical location using tech devices that haven’t inbuilt GPS hardware? It may be possible with Wi-Fi. Let’s see how it works.
GPS and Location Services
Location Services come as a built-in system with operating systems like Android, Windows 10, Chrome OS, Mac OS, and iOS. When an app wants to access your location, it actually wants to know your OS’s Location Services.
Advanced Location Services follow different methods like GPS to access your physical location. If a GPS doesn’t work, Location Services use some other approach to get a location. Let’s understand how devices find a location when GPS doesn’t work. If your mobile device utilizes a cellular signal, the location can be found using a signal source tower. The location can also be guessed as per relative signal strength using nearby towers. Nearby Wi-Fi access points can also help in location tracking.
Role of IP address in location finding
You might have noticed a pop-up notification like www.google.com wants to know your location while accessing a website like www.google.com. You provide your precise location by allowing the pop-up notification. This location accessing technique is used to guess an individual’s address.
The question is how a website guesses a physical location on a device like a laptop without built-in GPS? An IP address isn’t responsible for it. A website on a computer without Wi-Fi connection can only estimate your general location like a city, state, and country.
How Wi-Fi works in taking your location
Your device finds Wi-Fi points and other relative signals in your region. Then it makes a list of them. After that, the device communicates with internet servers that also have a list of Wi-Fi access points worldwide, including geographical locations. The database also combines the unique MAC addresses of the access points. When the name of a Wi-Fi changes, but access points don’t change. Location Services compare a list of Wi-Fi networks with a list of access points and their locations, and then they estimate your general location. The relative signal also helps in finding your location.
A Wi-Fi router shares the access point’s name and addresses with nearby devices. A Wi-Fi database only gathers information like nearby networks, unique identifiers, and physical locations. A database doesn’t collect details about the user and what type of data is shared over Wi-Fi.
The devices with advanced operating systems don’t allow access to such data to apps and sites if you don’t provide permission to it. Websites and apps are unable to find nearby Wi-Fi’s list. Without your consent, your location can’t be guessed.
How to restrict your Wi-Fi not to enter into the database?
You can protect your Wi-Fi from entering into the database. You can do it by preventing your tech devices from providing details about nearby Wi-Fi. You can restrict your devices from providing Wi-Fi information by turning off the Location Services. If you want, you can make your wireless access point safe from many Location Services databases. To do so, you will need to add “_nomap” at the ends of your SSID as suggested by Google. It may only work for Google Location Services, but you can try out some more ways with other Location Services databases.