Big Sur Safari 15 and Prey?

Ok…something strange is going on and I’ve about exhausted my ideas.

My laptop SSD (OWC Aura) died and they sent me a new one. I installed it and recovered from a CCC clone and all is well there. However, when I reinstalled Prey on it after deleting and reinstalling the machine account on Prey’s website and going through the Prey enrollment steps…the laptop (2015 rMBP) thinks it’s location is not at my house in North Fort Myers but down in Cape Coral somewhere, the address reported is a house down there but it’s not my house. My first thought was that something in 1Blocker was causing this but checked and my other Prey devices (iPhone and iPad running latest iOS) do come back to being located at my home address.

I disabled all the 1Blocker stuff in Safari and relaunched it…no joy.

Checked networking in case there was some strange VPN stuff going on…no joy. The laptop networking is setup with DHCP from my home router just like the other devices are and there’s nothing strange in Networking. I even tried creating a new networking location, completely uninstalling Prey and rebooting followed by a reinstall…all of that with no joy.

Since the MBP is up to date…it’s got Safari 15…is there something in there that would cause this issue? I don’t see anything obvious in the preferences but who knows?


A couple more bits after more tinkering on my part.

On further investigation…my wife’s M1 MBA which was migrated from her old 2013 MBA has the same issue even though Safari is her default browser…the same problem happens on her machine and it points to the same house 7 or 8 miles away. Strangely enough…it’s not Big Sur…maybe…as Find My reports the correct location for both laptops at our actual residence…so I’m confused. Probably an incompatibility of some sort between Big Sur and the Prey software which hasn’t been fixed…and since we’re on the free tier for Prey there’s essentially no support from them beyond the forum which I’ll try trolling to see if I can find anything there. The reported location is in a mostly residential area with a few small businesses nearby, we’ve never been there (at least the laptops haven’t, we’ve driven down the main drag a block or so away numerous times but not in the past 4 or 5 months and certainly not since the upgrade to her M1 MBA).

Rebooting and/or remove/forget/reinstall the Prey software doesn’t have any effect…as does reboot into a brand new admin user.

As I understand it, Prey can’t perfectly pinpoint a location for a device that doesn’t have a GPS in it and isn’t connected to a cellular network. It attempts to track based on IP addresses and Wi-Fi networks, but this is inexact and sometimes can be way off. Prey has never shown my laptops (a 2010 17-inch MBP and a 2019 16-inch MBP) at my actual address; the closest it’s ever been is a few units away in my condo complex, and I’ve occasionally seen it report a laptop as being a few miles down the main drag. Usually, when Prey has been way off for me, updating location from their web control panel brings it much closer.

Even right now, it’s showing the machine I’m typing on as being a quarter-mile away (claiming 10-meter accuracy). By comparison, it’s showing my iPhone 7 Plus as being next door, with the same claimed 10-meter accuracy—which in that case is correct, as the wall between my unit and that one is about 4 meters away from me.

I don’t know why the location reported for your machines changed when you swapped a machine, but I suspect that the inaccuracy is related to your IP address. If you use a residential ISP, a change to your external IP address could potentially cause such an issue. I don’t know how Prey links an IP address to a location as specifically as it claims—web sites normally can get location from non-GPS-enabled devices only to ZIP code level, if that closely.

Also, the browser you’re using should be irrelevant to Prey’s tracking abilities. It doesn’t use your browser to report or determine location—it uses its own background process (which appears in Activity Monitor as “node”) exclusively to report. The only thing affected by your browser should be the web control panel, and I’ve seen no difference in that between Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Opera, even with moderately out-of-date versions.

Yep…for laptops it uses wifi triangulation but since it worked properly before with earlier versions of Big Sur and Prey the wifi triangulation system knows where my home wifi is physically located. I don’t know how that database gets updated in the inter webs but it works. And Location services works on the laptop as well so clearly the laptop itself knows where it is…and turning wifi off so the laptop can’t report makes it disappear from Find My. What’s puzzling is that it used to work just fine but not my more. I did get a reply from Prey support with a terminal command to run and send them the ouput…I will update when I know some more.