How Does Google Know Where I Am With VPN?

How Does Google Know Where I Am With VPN?

VPNs are a handy tool to have when you would rather not have people/websites knowing where you are, but some people might be wondering if Google – who has some controversy with privacy, can track where you are even if you use a VPN.

Google knows your location even while using a VPN because they have VPN detection bots that can detect if you are hosting a VPN server. Additionally, if you have enabled Geolocation API, your browser can send the information of where you are to Google.

In this article, we will be going over how a VPN works, in what situations could someone be potentially caught using a VPN, and select the best VPN services. If you would like to learn more, we encourage you to read further!

How Does a VPN Work?

You hear a lot about VPNs these days; you might have seen ads from NordVPN and ExpressVPN if you frequent the tech youtube channels such as Linus Tech Tips. But what is all the rage, and why should you use a VPN?

Privacy is quite a big concern for many people. They don’t want other people or websites knowing what they are doing or where they are, and a VPN is a simple solution to become anonymous with just a click of a button. 

A VPN (a virtual private network) is a tool that connects you to a private network. When your device is connected, it will behave as if that network is your own, and thus that is why your IP address comes up differently.

A VPN also encrypts your connection, and so you cannot be tracked directly (more on this later). 

Someone might use a VPN for many reasons ranging from accessing content from another region, preventing websites and other people from tracking them, or illegal activity such as pirating movies or even buying illegal items online.

A VPN is simply a tool much like a car, what you do with it is entirely up to the user, and it could be used for either good or bad intentions. 

Are VPNs Truly Effective?

Using a VPN properly will successfully hide you from the internet. As we stated above, a VPN encrypts your data. Think of it as a middle man. Your connection without a VPN would be your device>modem>internet.

Your device is being connected directly to the internet, with your IP address being visible to websites. When you are using a VPN, your connection will look like this device>modem>VPN>internet. 

Before being connected to the internet, your VPN acts as a toll booth. Your connection must go through the VPN before you can access the web. Once you are connected to the private network, only the VPN knows your real IP address, making it impossible for anything else to understand your real IP. 

There is one caveat here, however, and that is DNS leakage. This won’t be a problem with top-level VPN services such as NordVPN, but it can be an issue with cheap or free VPN services.

This is one reason why people will generally tell you not to use these VPNs – including us. If you are serious about privacy, a dodgy virtual private network service likely will not make you 100% anonymous.

What Is DNS Leakage?

DNS stands for Domain Name System, and it is what makes using the internet easy. Instead of having to type the long numbers that a website uses as its language, a DNS translates that into IP addresses and, in turn, readable domain names. 

DNS leakage occurs when your ISP’s DNS server is used to access the web rather than a VPN. This results in your ISP still seeing what websites you are accessing when using a VPN that doesn’t connect you to another DNS server.

If you are doing stuff you shouldn’t be doing, and law enforcement wants to catch you, your ISP can simply show them what unsavory websites you’ve been on. 

It’s also a problem for people who are using a VPN for legitimate reasons; if a VPN isn’t making you anonymous, what is the point? Especially if you are a paying customer. 

This is why you should always test your VPN for DNS leakage when you enable it. Some have this test built-in, so you don’t have to scour the internet for a third party DNS leakage tester.

When looking around for a VPN service to use. Ensure that they can promise that DNS looks won’t occur.

Can Websites Such As Google Track Where You Are?

Google is a colossal company with lots of data on their hands. They can tailor a user’s internet experience by learning about them essentially. The websites you visit allow Google to understand your interests and show you relevant ads, for example. 

You seeing ads for products that you are interested in isn’t just a coincidence. Those ads are for you and other people with similar interests. Someone interested in cars is going to get entirely different ads from someone who is into gardening.

You can test this by just browsing things you wouldn’t normally be accessing, and you’ll end up seeing ads related to those things.

This is just one way Google tailors your internet experience through tracking. Ever wanted to find out the weather quickly? Just type in “weather” in the search box, and they will show you the current forecast right now and for the rest of the week.

Want to find a place to eat near you? Simply punch in “food,” and you’ll get results for restaurants closest to your location. 

You essentially exchange your information for convenience when using Google’s services, much like how other services work as well.

This also applies to other services; Amazon’s Echo is always listening to you in exchange for information/music/household functionalities on the fly by just using your voice, for instance.

This is when you are using the internet without a VPN. But what happens when you do? Can Google still see where you are? 

Like any other website or web service, Google cannot see your real IP address when using a VPN. If you select your location to come up as Germany to the web, that is what Google will see, and you will get your search results in German. 

This doesn’t mean Google can’t tell you are using a VPN. You may have noticed that you have to complete a captcha before accessing This is because even though your connection is anonymous and encrypted, many websites are still obvious to you that you are using a VPN. 

Additionally, they can still know your general location via a couple of ways. For one, Google Chrome tracks you across the web, gathers your internet usage information, and tailors an experience for you.

We went over this above and this is actually one of the reasons how they can still know where you are even if they are seeing a different IP address. This would be made even easier if you are logged into your Google account.

Another way they can know is if you are hosting your own VPN server. Google has VPN detection bots that know the general location of where that server is.

As for other sites knowing you are on a VPN, it is obvious to them, too. Some websites do not want you using a VPN, and they will not allow VPN users outright.

Usually, these sites are forums or places where users can interact with one another, and the reason they won’t allow VPNs is to prevent people from trolling and posting illegal stuff. 

What About TOR?

Some of you might be wondering if TOR applies to this notion as well. TOR is a popular browser that makes its users anonymous, bypassing your connection through multiple servers before accessing a website. This differs from a VPN where your connection is run through a single server.

There are pros and cons to using TOR for privacy reasons. You are pretty much untraceable when using TOR, but like with VPNs, websites know you are using it and can grant you access accordingly. 

Websites can detect TOR users because the exit nodes TOR uses are predictable and can be located and make TOR a questionable way to use the web privately. 

These exit nodes can be monitored and even compromised, it’s rare for users to have any problems, but law enforcement can watch these exit nodes to see where they are going. They don’t know who is using TOR, but it can feel too close to comfort for some. 

Furthermore, anyone can administer a server that functions as an exit node for TOR to monitor the traffic. There have been cases where login credentials and data have been stolen this way.

However, this is a double-edged sword for the administer since if illegal stuff passes through your node, you are ripe for trouble. 

This is why VPNs are still viable even though TOR is free; for some people, it is simply too much of a risk to use since the exit nodes are a clear weak point. 

One more thing, if you are using TOR for messing around on the dark web, make sure you have a cover for your webcam just in case; there have been some freaky stories on there. Cloudvalley Webcam Covers are aesthetically better than tape, and you can even put them on your phone!

In conclusion, Google can’t track your location when you are using TOR, but they know that you are using it. 

Consider Using Other Search Engines and Services

If you are using a good VPN, you likely care about your privacy much (or use it to fly the Jolley Roger flag). Even though Google can’t tell who is searching on their website with a VPN, they still record searches regardless. 

Additionally, using Gmail when under a VPN isn’t the best since you aren’t as secure as some other email providers. 

The solution? Use alternatives! 

Use Duck Duck Go to Search Instead of Google 

Many people, by default, use the term “Googling” when searching for something online. They are the dominant search engine by a large margin to the point that competitors such as Bing are often joked about as never being used by anyone. 

But if you’ve read the above sections, you’ll know that Google isn’t a privacy-focused company and will track searches, and you can even be tracked across the internet when you click search results on Google.

For this reason, some people opt for other search engines that tout privacy as their number one feature. One of the most popular ones is known as Duck Duck Go. 

This search provider aims to be the anti-Google; they mention Google a lot on their website. They promise that they do not track their users, nor is it possible for governments, ISPS, and internet search providers to track users across the web. 

As a result, Duck Duck Go is anonymous, making it the frosting on top of a VPN cake. It’s best used in Firefox, a browser that is quite popular and touts privacy as its feature. With a good VPN, Duck Duck Go, and Firefox, you are truly protected! 

Don’t think that Duck Duck Go is inconvenient and can’t get you the search results you expect. You can make it the default search engine in Firefox (or Chrome if you can’t give that up) and have an extension.

Furthermore, their search results are pretty good, and you shouldn’t have any trouble finding what you are looking for and in addition to this, their search result page is very similar to Google’s, so you won’t even have to get used to a new UI. 

Use Protonmail or Tutanota Instead of Gmail

If they wanted to, Google could read your email at any time. Wait; what? Yep, it’s true! Like we keep stating, there is a reason why Google is controversial among users who value privacy.

Furthermore, they can release your email contents if the law orders them to decide whether you did anything or not. 

Naturally, some companies took the matter into their own hands to create email services that make it impossible for anyone to read through your emails and potentially compromise your account. 

The two most popular privacy-focused email services are Protonmail and Tutanota. 


Protonmail is based in Switzerland and uses open source and zero-knowledge architecture with possibly the best security you could ask for with an email service provider.

How hardcore are these guys? Try keeping their servers in a military bunker under a kilometer of granite with multiple layers of passwords. The chances of an attack succeeding are pretty much zero. 

They have both a free and paid version, with the paid letting you have your domain. You either use it in a browser or their app just like Gmail – thus, you aren’t sacrificing any convenience at all. If you want an email that is encrypted and safe, this is a really good first choice.


Tutanota also offers an encrypted mailbox and is based in Germany. They take their encryption a step further, however, and will encrypt everything: body, subject, attachments, and even your contacts and calendar. ProtonMail does not encrypt subject lines or text searches in comparison. 

Tutanota also runs on open-source code, so nothing is hidden in terms of fishy business happening.

The company cannot see your emails or anyone else, and like ProtonMail, they have a mobile app and a desktop website for convenience. You can also use a paid version if you’d like more storage and a private domain.  

Use Instead of Google Drive/Photos

Google can also look into your Google Drive files and Photos, including any documents you have written in Google Docs, and again, you can release this data if they are ordered too.

But cloud storage is a very important part of our lives nowadays, gone are the times when a lost computer meant losing all of your important files. So what do you do? Use an encrypted cloud storage service like

Sync puts privacy first with its end-to-end user encryption. The company cannot read your files, nor can anyone else unless you intentionally share with another user. 

You can use the service for free or pay more to access more storage. The step up from the free tier is the mini-plan, which is $60 a year and grants you access to 200Gb of storage. You can also opt for the pro solo plans, which start at 2TB of storage and caps at 4TB.

You can access your files through the app or on their website, making it just as convenient as Google Drive. 

Consider Using Linux

As we are wrapping things up here, we wanted to share one last piece of advice.

If you are using Windows or Chrome OS and value privacy, consider using Linux instead. Both Microsoft and Google track many things you do, while most Linux distros just want you to get stuff done and enjoy their OS. If you would like to learn more about using Linux, we suggest watching this video:


Google won’t know where you are if you have a VPN, but they can still track you across the web-based on what location you selected on your VPN. However, there are many alternatives to Google’s privacy-focused services if you are looking for more privacy in your web life. 

Duck Duck Go is a fantastic search engine that brings Google’s search engine power without tracking, while ProtonMail and Tutanota can be your secure e-mailbox. If you need to store things in the cloud, Sync keeps your stuff out of view from any company or person. 


Mark Lewis

Security nerd with a Data Privacy First mindset!

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