Recently, Google’s desktop news began showing me the weather and local news for Detroit in the state of Michigan, rather than for my corner of Los Angeles as had been Google’s standard practice up to that point. And local Google desktop search results are suddenly all for Detroit instead of Los Angeles — not particularly useful to me.
Meanwhile, my Google Home unit, which always happily reported the weather for my local zip code, now thinks that I’m somewhere in Hawaii instead. And my Chromecast’s screensaver is showing current temperatures that don’t seem to match any of these locales.
What’s going on? Damned if I know! And it’s a real problem, because Google no longer provides any obvious means for you to correct these kinds of errors.
When I started asking around about this, I received a pile of responses from other Google users with similar problems. For some their locations are off a bit, for others way, way wrong, like in my case.
Since some users had actually traveled to those locations at some point in the past, it appears that Google somehow got “stuck” on those old locations. But in my situation, I’ve never been to either Detroit or Hawaii. In fact, I haven’t been out of my L.A. cage in years.
The one device where my location seems to be known correctly by Google at this time is my Android phone — and that’s because the location is being pulled from the phone itself (e.g., the GPS) — as Google itself notes at the bottom of results pages on my phone.
The bottom of those Google pages on desktop say that they’re getting my location from my Internet address. That’s quite bizarre, since that IP address is quite stable for months at a time, and more to the point the public IP address geolocation databases I’ve checked all correctly show me in L.A. (either the city in general or more specifically here in the West San Fernando Valley).
At the bottom of those Google pages there is a “Use precise location” link — but as far as I can tell it has no useful effect. Google keeps insisting that I’m in Detroit in all desktop results.
As for the wrong location data now apparently being used by Chromecast and being reported by Google Home … they just add a layer of confused frosting on top of the foundational cake of these annoying Google location errors.
I realize that there are people who make a hobby out of trying to hide their locations from Google — and that’s their choice. But personally, I value the location-based services that Google provides. It’s frustrating to me — and many other users — that Google does not provide some sort of explicit mechanism for us to update this location data when it goes wrong.
One thing’s for sure, I’m not moving to Detroit, or Hawaii. OK, if I had to choose, Detroit is a fine city, but I don’t do well in cold winters, so Hawaii would likely win out.
But since in reality I’m not planning a move from L.A., I’d sure appreciate Google setting my location as being where I actually am, rather than thousands of miles away.
UPDATE (September 28, 2017): As of yesterday morning, Google had me “on the move” again. My Google desktop services IP address insisted that I was in “San Diego County” — my Google Home claimed that I was in Las Vegas! Well, “getting closer” (to paraphrase Bullwinkle). Then late last night Home switched to my correct location. This morning I found that desktop services now have my location correctly as well. Did the spacetime continuum shift? Did someone at Google hear me? We may never know.