Phorm and Fake Geolocation

On my Privacy Tips page, I recommend that you disable Geolocation features in Firefox.

Geolocation allows your browser to obtain and disclose an estimate of your present location (sometimes accurate to within metres of your actual presence) to the web sites you use, and Google. If you're using a laptop, the data is obtained from information about the wireless access points/cell phone masts within range of your computer.

There are many reasons this presents a profound privacy threat. First, it allows a permanent association to be made between your IP address and physical location, something that is otherwise very difficult for a web site to establish (rather like tracing a telephone call). Secondly, it allows a considerable amount of information to be inferred from your location; such as where you work, where you live, who and where your friends/clients/suppliers are. That data also becomes a very valuable asset.

For children, and vulnerable adults, this presents a particularly sinister menace. Grooming, fraud, and abduction can be perpetrated knowing the location of an individual.

If your location is communicated to an unencrypted web site, anyone monitoring your communications - such as Phorm - can establish where you are located too.

To disable the Geolocation feature in Firefox completely (strongly recommended) see the Privacy Tips page.

Alternatively it is possible to override the default location provider in Firefox. This allows you to present your location as somewhere random, or even a specific false location. Listed below are some alternative sources of fake Geolocation data that will cause your browser to report a random, or even rather improbable bogus location (NB: Firefox versions 3.5-8.0,  and version 9.0-10.0+ use two different request/response formats for geolocation data).

You can tune your browser by entering "about:config" in your address bar. Accept the warning, and enter "geo." as a filter term. Double click on "geo.enabled" to toggle the setting to "true". Set  (or create) the string preference "geo.wifi.uri" to be one of the urls listed below;

Reported Location FF3.5 - FF8.0 URL FF9.0 - FF10.0+ URL Description

Reports a completely random location, anywhere from the Arctic to the Antarctic, the middle of the Indian Ocean to the Atlantic

Buckingham Palace, London

You could become a member of the UK Royal Family

Oval Office, Whitehouse, Washington

Or take a seat in the Oval Room at the Whitehouse

Chelsea FC, Stamford Bridge

Or play professional football for Chelsea

Gracelands, Memphis Tennessee

Perhaps Elvis never left the building at all?

Area 51, Nevada

You could claim to be flying a UFO in Area 51

Loch Ness, Scotland

Home of Nessie in Scotland, altitude 5m below water level for added realism

Royal Wedding 2011

A front row invitation to Westminster Abbey, Parliament Square.

(No data supplied by your browser is collected or stored by