Section: New Software and Platforms

Location Guard

Keywords: Privacy - Geolocation - Browser Extensions

Scientific Description: The purpose of Location Guard is to implement obfuscation techniques for achieving location privacy, in a an easy and intuitive way that makes them available to the general public. Various modern applications, running either on smartphones or on the web, allow third parties to obtain the user's location. A smartphone application can obtain this information from the operating system using a system call, while web application obtain it from the browser using a JavaScript call.

Functional Description: Websites can ask the browser for your location (via JavaScript). When they do so, the browser first asks your permission, and if you accept, it detects your location (typically by transmitting a list of available wifi access points to a geolocation provider such as Google Location Services, or via GPS if available) and gives it to the website.

Location Guard is a browser extension that intercepts this procedure. The permission dialog appears as usual, and you can still choose to deny. If you give permission, then Location Guard obtains your location and adds "random noise" to it, creating a fake location. Only the fake location is then given to the website.

In 2017 there was a major update to the Firefox version of Location Guard, to make it compatible with the Firefox Quantum. This latest Firefox version discontinued support for the legacy addon API, so Location Guard had to be adapted to the new WebExtensions API.

Moreover, the latest version implements new features requested by users, such as the ability to search for a fixed location, as well as bugfixes.