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Geo-spoofing: How to Fake Your Location Using a VPN
If you’re an avid online content consumer, you’ve likely come across sites that are restricted to your location. A few examples are services like Spotify and YouTube TV, which are only available to US residents. The reason you’re blocked from watching the final episode of Game of Thrones or streaming the hottest songs, is because the site providers use geo-blocking techniques to restrict who can and can’t access their content.
Luckily for you, there’s geo-spoofing. We’ll teach you how to geo-spoof and say goodbye to that dreadful “sorry, this site is unavailable in your location” message for good.
What is geo-spoofing?
Geo-spoofing is, as it sounds, hiding your geographic location. With advanced APIs out there -the software that allows 2 applications to communicate- it’s easier than ever for search engines to accurately determine your exact location. They scrape data from cell towers and other information rich spots and share it with the search engines, which then share it with the specific websites.
Since websites are restricted due to location, the only way to get around those restrictions is by faking where you are – hence the term “geo-spoofing.” People geo-spoof for many reasons, including accessing restricted content, such as streaming and torrenting, and for search engine privacy.
There are 2 main ways to geo-spoof, with the most common option being a VPN (virtual private network). A VPN does two critical things: it tunnels your internet data through its own servers, changing your IP address so that it looks like you’re in a different location, and encrypts your signal, making what you’re doing almost impossible to access.
The Need to Spoof
The main reason a person would need to fake their geo-location is to access popular streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, or HBO GO. Many times streaming services have content that isn’t licensed in certain countries and therefore the residents of that country would not be able to access it. Geo-spoofing would allow you to access catalogues outside of your country. The same holds true for a service like HBO GO. To watch content on the site you must reside within the US, which is why people geo-spoof, to make it seem like they are living in America.
Another big reason people geo-spoof is so that search engines like Google or Bing don’t log their searches. Search engines do indeed track and record your search history, which is how they effectively target you for ads. Say you’re searching for baby food or diapers, you will probably see an ad for either of the 2 items a little while later on the side of your Facebook feed or in Google. Search engines do this by connecting your searches with your computer’s IP address. It’s essentially saying that person X on computer Y is looking for Z.
You may not care about search engines knowing exactly what you’re searching for, and you may even find the targeting helpful, but say you’re planning a trip and want to look up flights and prices. If you search from your regular browser, the flight and travel sites will be notified that your IP has searched for flights. This information is often used by sites to hike up prices, as they know you need or want to go somewhere. So if you search for a flight on a browser without using a VPN, you’ll likely see higher prices the next time you perform the same exact search.
A common workaround is to search for flights in a Google Chrome incognito window, but an even more secure solution is to use a VPN to geo-spoof your location. This kicks it up a notch by keeping not only your searches and details private, but changes your IP’s location. You may actually be able to access better deals with a VPN.
How to Spoof Your Geo-location
As mentioned, using a VPN is the most common way to ensure a secure and private connection. If you choose to use a VPN:
- Your first step will be selecting a VPN service. Here are a few popular VPNs on the market. Note that most good VPNs cost a small monthly or yearly amount.
- Download and install the VPN onto your computer.
- Connect to a VPN server in the country you want.
- When the VPN connects, your computer’s IP will be masked and it’ll seem as if you’re in the country of your choosing.
You can also geo-spoof on your browser, as well as your mobile device. It’s a good idea to mask your location on your browsers because browsers often use the latest geo-location API that may be able to detect your location. Here’s how to switch off the geo-location settings on Google Chrome and Safari:
- Google Chrome
- Click on the menu button (three dots) in the top right corner of your Chrome window
- Click “Settings”
- Go to “Advanced Settings”
- Under the ‘Privacy’ section, click “Content Settings”
- Find “Location” and turn it off
- Go to “Preferences”
- Select the “Privacy” tab
- Choose “Deny without prompting”
You can also geo-spoof on your mobile device for the times you want to stream shows or consume content on-the-go that may be restricted in your location. It’s trickier on mobile than web though, because many mobile apps you use on a daily basis require your location – like Google Maps, Waze, weather and news apps.
- Go to “Settings”
- Turn off “Location”
- Note that this will turn off location services for your entire device. To turn off tracking for individual apps, go to your settings menu
Geo-spoofing on an iPhone requires the phone to be jailbroken, which is not ideal. But there are geo-spoofing apps for both Android and iPhone that you can download straight from Google Play or the App Store.
Let the Spoofing Begin
Geo-spoofing has become popular due to the lack of privacy consumers are feeling online. From targeted ads to promoted content, it seems that no information is private anymore. If you’re a firm believer in privacy, or just want to watch the latest episode of your favorite series no matter where you are, geo-spoofing is your answer.
Check out our reviews of the leading VPN services for more information.