Geolocation

Geolocation’s use

Geolocation is the process of determining your location on Earth. Although the concept of geolocation is often connected with GPS, there is more than one way to determine your location when you are on the Internet. For example, your Internet address (IP address) can be used to determine roughly where you are, even without the more advanced methods of geolocation.

Suppose that you want a more precise determination of your location than that provided by your IP address. For example, a website may want to know your location in order to provide you with a local map, or to identify a nearby restaurant or hotel. The Opera web browser (Opera) can tell the website approximately where you are, with the help of Google Location Services (GLS). Opera will always ask for your permission, and your privacy will always be respected.

Turning on geolocation

The first time you go to a website that requests geolocation information, Google Location Services’ terms and conditions are presented. If you agree to them, the service is activated.

After that, every time a website requests geolocation information, Opera tells you and gives you the choice to send or not send your location data.

If you first reject Google Location Services’ terms and conditions, but later change your mind, go to Settings (Preferences on Mac) > Websites > Location, and check Allow websites to request my physical location.

Turning off geolocation

You can reject Google Location Services’ terms and conditions. Alternatively, go to Settings (Preferences on Mac) > Websites > Location, and uncheck Allow websites to request my physical location.

How geolocation works

The exact way that geolocation works depends on the device, and its way of connecting to the Internet.

If the device is a desktop computer, without any wireless connections, the IP address is used to determine the device’s location, and the measurement is rather crude.

To determine the location of a laptop or other wireless device, Opera may additionally send the following data from nearby Wi-Fi access points:

  • MAC address (uniquely identifies the hardware)
  • Signal strength (tells how far away it is)

A database of known Wi-Fi access points, along with the measured signal strength, makes it possible to give rather precise location information. The success of this method depends largely on the concentration of known access points.

If the device is connected to a mobile telephone network, location data may include the cell IDs for the cell towers closest to you, along with their signal strength. If the device is GPS-enabled, the location may be obtained via GPS.

Any or all of the above methods may be used to determine the device’s location, if the device has sufficient connectivity. In what follows, we refer to this data as the location data.

Checking if a webpage is using location data

When you first go to a webpage that uses location data, Opera tells you, and you decide whether or not to send the data. From then on, a pin appears in the address field connected with that page. Clicking on the pin opens a site-specific preferences dialog where you can change the geolocation setting to one of three values: Yes, No, or Ask me. The default is Ask me.

Your privacy with geolocation

Every time a website requests your location data, Opera informs you and asks for your permission to send it.

With your permission, Opera passes location data to Google Location Services and sends an estimated latitude and longitude to the website. Opera does not save location data, nor are any cookies generated. Every time your location is requested, Opera redetermines the location data.

The data passed to Google includes location data and a random client identifier (opera:config#Geolocation|AccessToken) assigned by Google, which expires after 2 weeks. The client identifier is used to distinguish requests, not to identify you. The data passed to Google is governed by Google’s own Privacy Policy.

The location information sent to the website is governed by the website’s privacy policy. It is the responsibility of the website to dispose of that information in a way that is consistent with W3C’s Geolocation API Specification.

Opera Software’s Privacy Statement