A new online tracking system will allow websites to pin point your location to within a few hundred metres – without you ever giving your permission. Internet sites will be able to work out where users are to within an average of 690m, less than half a mile, using information about their internet connection.
At the moment they can only track users’ locations to within a radius of about 200 kilometres, but the new technique will narrow this down to as little as 100m.
The tracking method will allow online advertisers to target web browsers with tailored messages, but it has raised concerns about privacy.
Similar techniques of mapping the internet protocol (IP) address that every computer has are already in use, but are far less accurate.
On average the method gets to within 690 metres of the target, but it can be as close as 100 metres, good enough to identify the location of the computer to within a few streets.
To locate computers to this accuracy has previously required people to agree to share location, but the new system does not need any particular software on the computer to work or even the user’s permission.
Yong Wang, one of the researchers who designed the method, said: ‘This is a client-independent method. The client does not need to approve anything.’
The tracking system will be particularly valuable to advertisers who will be able to target browsers with adverts for shops and service just down the street.
The development comes as privacy concerns were also raised about iPhone users having their locations and movements secretly tracked and stored.
Researchers discovered that the Apple devices save the user’s latitude and longitude along with a time and date stamp that can be easily accessed.