It sounds like science fiction, but it's a very real function of many web browsers on computers and phones: The ability to track your location and announce online where you happen to be. This functionality is largely used for marketing purposes, but no matter how innocuous the intent, it can make many of us uncomfortable.
How does it work? And more importantly, how do you disable it?
First, you need to understand how the browser knows where you are. When you're on the Internet, encoding in the traffic back and forth is at least some information about where you're located physically, usually tied to the IP address or network you're using. This is just part of how the network is set up; pretty much the only way to not have this traffic reveal your location to someone is to not use the Internet.
However, access to this information is not a right businesses have, but a permission you have to grant them. This is true of not just web browsers, but websites as well. No website can simply track you. It has to do so with your permission.
If you don't want your location tracked online, what should you do to help prevent that? Start with your browser. The major Internet browsers all offer the ability to disable location tracking.
Only you should be allowed to fill in the blanks.
In the address bar, type in "about: config" without the quotes. Scroll down the list it provides until you see "geo.enabled". If across from this it says "false," Firefox is not tracking your location. If it says "true," double click the word "true" and it'll switch to "false."
Select the wrench icon in the upper right hand side, then Options, then Under the Hood, then Content Settings, then Location. You'll be presented with a list of options. Select "Do Not Allow Any Site To Track My Physical Location". Chrome always opens a small box that lets you choose to allow or deny geotracking on a site-by-site basis as a standard feature.
Click on Internet Options. This will open a window with multiple tabs. Select the Privacy tab. Look for the check box marked "Never Allow Websites To Track Your Physical Location," and while you're at it, click "Clear Sites."
Now you need to disable geolocation on your smartphone. Photos especially tend to use geotagging in a tag called EXIF. Fortunately this is generally pretty easy to do on phones.
Open Settings, and click on Location Services. You can toggle all services off at this point, or you can open the menu and disable specific geotagging functions from there, like on your camera.
Select Settings, and then Location and Security. You can disable any location functions from there.
Remember, though, that protecting your privacy goes well beyond just configuring your browser and phone. At Reputation.com, we've got tools that help you control how you're seen online and help you keep your privacy in a time when it seems everybody wants to take it away. If you want to keep yourself to yourself, contact Reputation.com today.