Another way that Google spies on us

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2024-02-27 17:00:01

Not long ago my wife started to complain that her Android phone was showing the temperature in Celsius rather than Fahrenheit on the home screen. Though she spent a lifetime working with computers, she never focused on Android at all, so it was easy to assume she had clicked on something by mistake. We fixed it briefly, but it happened again. Still, this was too minor a thing for me to focus on.

But then, something strange happened on my Windows computer - a Google search turned up results for the UK rather than US (where I live). After some digging, the full details of which are below, it turns out both devices were suffering from the same issue.

NOTE: Every device that is directly connected to the Internet is assigned a unique number. Computer nerds call this number an IP address. In our homes, the only device that is directly connected to the Internet is the router, and the router has one public IP address that all the devices in your home share. This public IP address is not a secret, it is revealed to every website you visit and every email server that provides email. In fact, it is how a website knows where to send the page you requested. Advanced techie details of about IP addresses can be found on here on my site.

How did Google come to this conclusion? Lots of people complain that Google thinks they are in a different country. The suggested solutions that I have seen assume that the problem is either in the operating system, the web browser or the Google account. My debugging steps, detailed below, prove that it was not any of these things.

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