Geolocation Controls Comparison

Location based services are rapidly becoming more prevalent on the Web.  Although websites have attempted to determine geolocation based on IP address for years, such determinations were not very precise.  Recent developments have enabled geolocation services to provide precise information about a user’s geolocation.  Geolocation-enabled browsers use a service provider to obtain the user’s estimated geolocation.  This information is then provided to websites requesting location information.  The chart below compares the geolocation controls available in each of the browsers.1

Geolocation Controls Chrome 7 Firefox 3.6 / 4.0 Beta 6 Internet Explorer 8 / 9 Beta Opera 10.6 Safari 5
Geolocation service provider can be changed No No NA No No
The geolocation service can be disabled for all geolocation requests Yes No2 NA Yes Yes
The geolocation service can be disabled for third-party content requests No No NA No No
Disabling geolocation service prevents sites previously granted persistent permission from receiving geolocation No NA NA Yes Yes
Provides an indicator that geolocation is being provided. Yes No3 NA Yes No
The geolocation indicator identifies which sites are receiving geolocation Yes NA NA No NA
User can revoke permission for a specific site previously given persistent access to geolocation Yes Yes4 NA Yes No
User can revoke permission for all sites previously given persistent access to geolocation Yes No NA No Yes
User can grant permission to a specific site that was previously blocked Yes Yes5 NA Yes No
Allow lists can be subscribed to No No No No No
Block lists can be subscribed to No No No No No
User can view and manage a list of all sites that have been granted/denied geolocation access Yes No NA No No

1 This comparison only explores controls that are surfaced through the user interface.  If the option requires low-level configuration modification, then it is not considered an available control for purposes of this comparison.  A common example of this is the geolocation service provider.  While this provider can be changed in many of the browsers, it is a setting that requires the user to modify low-level configuration and is not directly surfaced through the interface.

2 Users can disable all geolocation requests in Firefox by modifying the configuration file using about:config.

3 Firefox 4 beta 6 briefly displays an indicator when prompting the user to share.  However, the indicator disappears after a decision is made.

4 The user must navigate to the site that permission was granted for, select Tools-> Page Info, select Permissions, and then deselect Share Location.

5 The user must navigate to the site that was blocked, select Tools-> Page Info, select Permissions, and then select Share Location.

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