How Do THEY Know Where Your Computer Is?

So, how does your home PC or laptop show where you are in the world? If you open up Google maps or a similar site, how does it "know" you are in a suburb of Columbus, Ohio - or even what street you are on?

On a smartphone, most of them use GPS to pinpoint your location - the same technology that car navigation systems use. But your home PC or laptop does not have that, does it? Usually no, and it does not need it to reveal where you are connecting from.

For general location information (the city or part of the city) your public IP address will give that away. The router or cable modem that your ISP uses to give you Internet access also has a public IP address. It has to, otherwise web pages would not work for you.

If you use a VPN, this public IP may be disguised and therefore not a valid method of determining your location. Even so, the location of Wi-Fi hotspots nearby (whether you actually connect to them or not) is usually enough for your position to be inferred to pretty accurate level - usually within a city block, often closer.

Who collects and correlates this publicly available Wi-Fi network data? Why our good friends, Microsoft, Apple and Google, of course. Most any webpage can access this data (and more) - see an example here:

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