How does YouTube know my country while behind VPN?

I use premium VPN at router level via the mango model router, every single test site gives nothing but the correctly altered details dependant upon IP. However, I have recently noticed that if I watch a YouTube video with a small number of views and go through the recommended section it will always suggest news videos specific to my real country rather than the spoofed one. On I get 1 critical warning telling me my clock time does not match the timezone of my VPN IP, could that be how they’re getting me?

This warning is simply because the time zone of your browser/operating system is different from the time zone of the VPN server. YouTube can’t tell which country you are in just by the time zone.

Maybe these videos were only recommended based on your viewing history? Maybe your device has reported its location? Have you checked your location information in Google?

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This happens when opening a new private browsing session with zero cookies cached and I’ve never enabled GPS data so it can’t be there, I also use an app called NetGuard to block internet access for everything except web browser and fdroid + Aurora Store. It a bit of a concern as I can’t figure out how they tell and therefore can’t tell how precise their knowledge is, do they know me to the country or to my actual home. I don’t even own any Google accounts either

Can you test by running the VPN client directly on your client device to the VPN server, to see if you get the same behaviour without running the VPN client on the Mango router?

I do not work for and I am not directly associated with GL.iNet

I don’t know, but I am very sure we need to take a look at the bigger picture.
YouTube (as every company below alphabet) is interested in make money. Much. And one of the most valuable asset today is information.

Alphabet, with Google, ist very good at collecting and using information.
One possible way to determine your position legally could be the YouTube App on your mobile, which is getting the cell information of your provider and this small fragment overrides all your efforts in building a VPN.

Just a thought
I don"t know your real setup or the internals of YouTube/Alphabet/…

Are you sure aren’t signed into Youtube/Google?

Maybe your browser is leaking your IP via WebRTC, the following site provides a test I believe

Your browser, such as Firefox, may be leaking your location via WiFi network names. See How to Disable Geo IP In Firefox and How effective is disabling Firefox's geo.enabled setting for increasing anonymity? - Information Security Stack Exchange and GitHub - arkenfox/user.js: Firefox privacy, security and anti-tracking: a comprehensive user.js template for configuration and hardening .

Similarly, Chrome may be sharing location services. If you’re in OS X, turn off Location Services (Show your current location in Maps on Mac – Apple Support (UK)).

Are you sure your VPN is located in the region you want to appear to be originating from?

Are you sure you’ve cleared all cookies?

Do you have another device, such as a phone, that is signed into your Google account?

Your timezone is a big tell, that could be it alone. Along with your browser language settings. Still, I’m curious what the issue might be.

Try using a hardened version of Brave or Firefox with security settings turned up and anti-fingerprinting.

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Even if you are not logged in your Youtube account, your Youtube app (on Smart TV or Smartphone) could have memorized a particular country on its settings: check Settings-General-Country on your Youtube app.
Also, you said that while using vpn the recommended section is suggesting videos from your original country, but what about advertising between videos? Are they also from your original country?
Are you using your VPN DNS or a particular service such as NextDNS?