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After a bit of googling, found that the gs_l parameter that gets automatically appended to my google queries is my real location encoded in some way. The thing is, there is no sign of me having it approved in the past in my browser settings. Where does it come from then? Or does the search have automatic extra privilege in Chrome?

ask

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    Are you sure it's your exact location and not just derived from your IP / language settings? – Arminius Jan 3 '17 at 15:50
  • Do you have proof this is your exact your location? It is probably your IP – Bubble Hacker Jan 3 '17 at 15:50
  • I'm using a proxy, so it's not my IP. Or maybe it is. I'll try to decode the data. – Rápli András Jan 3 '17 at 15:56
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    Related, for Google Maps: security.stackexchange.com/questions/137418/… – Anders Jan 3 '17 at 15:59
  • At some point in the past, someone (either you or someone else) may have connected using this IP, and used one of Google's services, and had GPS enabled on the device that they were using. If so, then Google now knows the GPS coordinates for this IP address. Assuming that the IP has not been reassigned, Google can 'guess' that anyone using this IP address going forward will be located at these same coordinates. – mti2935 Nov 16 at 1:58
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In Google Support, you can find next:

Google automatically detects your computer’s location using its IP address, Location History (if it’s turned on), and recent locations you’ve searched for.

How Google uses your IP address

Your IP address is usually based on a real-world location, so Google might use your IP address to guess where you are and give you local results.

For example, Google could use your IP address to give you the weather forecast for the town you're in when you search for weather.

For location history, you can check here. And for recent locations here.

Also, I will not be surprised if Google did a "wardriving" in Hungary (while working on Google street project) - Source, so based on that, it can be possible to determine almost exact location.

This peace of Python code is old and doesn't work anymore, but it can give you an idea for what I'm taking right here.

Connect to your Wi-Fi and run this code (:

function showPosition(position) {
    var latlon = position.coords.latitude + "," + position.coords.longitude;

    var img_url = "https://maps.googleapis.com/maps/api/staticmap?center=
    "+latlon+"&zoom=14&size=400x300&sensor=false";

    document.getElementById("mapholder").innerHTML = "<img src='"+img_url+"'>";
}
  • Didn't OP actually ask how Google knows the location although he didn't allow it in the settings? I don't think your answer addresses that concern. – Arminius Jan 3 '17 at 23:05
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It is not your exact location unless you allow it in the browser. It is largely taken from knowledge of your preferences, information about the network you are on and other browser preferences such as the allowed language settings.

For example, my language settings in my browsers are set to prefer UK English so it is a reasonable bet that I'm in the UK. This is generally backed up by the network(s) I use in the UK & the cookie(s) that Google search places in my browser that indicate a continued preference for the UK version. In addition, my Google account is set to allow Google know that I am usually based in Sheffield so it gives me a preference for that city when I'm on my home network. When I travel abroad though, I find that Google likes to try and present local results through still in my preferred language.

Don't forget that Google as a very large collection of data about habits, networks, physical locations and much more. It makes "good" use of that data when interacting with people. One of the reasons I'm not very trusting of Google "work" and email applications.

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