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"Google Latitude: pin-pointing your location"

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Tue 31/08/10 at 17:12
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Google Latitude: pin-pointing your location

People may have wondered how Google and numerous Apps (both PC and mobile) can know your exact location Ė without using a GPS (Global Positioning System) enabled device.

Google was in the news earlier in the year for recording data from peopleís wireless settings as it took photos for Google Street View, but you may not have realised how itís using this data.

Google have recorded the unique MAC (Media Access Control) addresses for all wifi APs (Access Points) that were found to be broadcasting their SSID (network name) - which is how most people have their router setup.

At the same time they have recorded the physical location of each wireless access point.

So Google now has a massive database showing the location and wireless MAC addresses covering most of the country.

Mobile Apps can make use of this data but so can PC based ones.

www.google.com/latitude allows you to view your location via an iGoogle gadget Ė See the link under 'View it on your computer'.

Google uses gears.google.com (a browser addon but already built into Google Chrome) to interact with itís location database.

Your computer has to have a wireless card enabled and you have to have given Google or the web page permission to track your location. Then even if your wifi AP hasnít been recorded by Google it can work things out if there are any other wifi APs in range Ė you donít have to be connected to them.

Google have a page where you can update them if things are massively wrong:
services.google.com/fb/forms/wifibugs

This geo location test page shows you any other MAC addresses of wifi APs close by:
test-geolocation.appspot.com (either needs Google Gears installed or Chrome).

All clever stuff - but makes you think!
[s]Hmmm...[/s]
Sun 12/09/10 at 17:39
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Due to popular demand I've created a simple Geo Location Demo page!

I'm using Google Maps with 'navigator.geolocation'.
As always I've just cobbled the code up, so there will be cleaner ways of achieving this!

You will need to be using a modern browser and also on a computer that has wireless capability as it looks at surrounding WiFi APs as previously mentioned.

It works for me (using FireFox and Chrome) and is about 30m out when I zoom in on the map - not bad!

As per the W3 guidelines clicking the "Where am I ?" button on my demo page will cause your browser (if the Geo Location is enabled) to generate a permission request. All websites using Geo Location ethically should do this!

Simple Google Geo Location demo.

Hope you like it!
[s]Hmmm...[/s]
Thu 02/09/10 at 10:17
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Hi cjh,
'IP address Geo Location' is something a bit different.

i.e. My Freeola Broadband IP Address will show me to be at Telford where ever I happen to be as this is where the IP block is registered.

This latest Geo Location is using a database of viewable wifi access points to locate you - it's not using your IP address.


Another option is to manually set your location within Google Latitude just to mess things up ;¨)

[s]Hmmm...[/s]
Thu 02/09/10 at 09:33
Regular
"It goes so quickly"
Posts: 4,083
Hmmm...:
Most people won't be worried if websites can tell their visitors
location but it's worth knowing about and realising that you have
the option to disable it if required.


I don't think you really have the option to "disable" it from within the web browser. The geo-location within a browser is really a JavaScript thing, in that it can make the users location available to your scripts, and use for things such as Google Maps.

IP address geo-location can still be done when the browser settings are turned off, it'll just mean that the location won't be available to a script, unless embedded into the code server-side, such as with PHP.

I think the only want to keep your location hidden these days is to use a proxy server connection.
Wed 01/09/10 at 09:48
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Posts: 5,000
My day-today browser is IE8, so as I mentioned earlier you would need to install Google Gears to enable Geo Location services to work.

But I've just checked my FireFox installation and found that I have Geo Location turned on.

Further reading shows that FireFox, Safari and Opera (and Chrome as already mentioned) all have this option built in.

FireFox
To check this in FF type about:config in the address bar then filter the page by typing geo.
The geo.enabled entry will be set to true or false. You can change this by double-clicking if required.

Safari
In Safari you can check/change the Location services option in Preferences > Security tab

Opera
Type opera:config in the address bar then in Preferences select Geolocation

Chrome
Options > Under the hood > Content settings > Location tab
There is a check box for 'Do not allow any site to track my physical location'.

Most people won't be worried if websites can tell their visitors location but it's worth knowing about and realising that you have the option to disable it if required.

[s]Hmmm...[/s]
Tue 31/08/10 at 17:12
Moderator
"Are you sure?"
Posts: 5,000
Google Latitude: pin-pointing your location

People may have wondered how Google and numerous Apps (both PC and mobile) can know your exact location Ė without using a GPS (Global Positioning System) enabled device.

Google was in the news earlier in the year for recording data from peopleís wireless settings as it took photos for Google Street View, but you may not have realised how itís using this data.

Google have recorded the unique MAC (Media Access Control) addresses for all wifi APs (Access Points) that were found to be broadcasting their SSID (network name) - which is how most people have their router setup.

At the same time they have recorded the physical location of each wireless access point.

So Google now has a massive database showing the location and wireless MAC addresses covering most of the country.

Mobile Apps can make use of this data but so can PC based ones.

www.google.com/latitude allows you to view your location via an iGoogle gadget Ė See the link under 'View it on your computer'.

Google uses gears.google.com (a browser addon but already built into Google Chrome) to interact with itís location database.

Your computer has to have a wireless card enabled and you have to have given Google or the web page permission to track your location. Then even if your wifi AP hasnít been recorded by Google it can work things out if there are any other wifi APs in range Ė you donít have to be connected to them.

Google have a page where you can update them if things are massively wrong:
services.google.com/fb/forms/wifibugs

This geo location test page shows you any other MAC addresses of wifi APs close by:
test-geolocation.appspot.com (either needs Google Gears installed or Chrome).

All clever stuff - but makes you think!
[s]Hmmm...[/s]

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