The days of cable connectivity are coming to an end, but with technological advances security should still be at the forefront of our minds. How important is your privacy to you? If you’re on Twitter or Facebook, you’ll probably be used to adjusting your privacy settings when required. You might not be that bothered anyway, and as the wireless world offers plenty of opportunities for snoops to be nosy (just check out what’s happening in the UK with the phone hacking scandal), but it’s best to be on the safe side.
This brings us nicely to the acts of search engine giant Google. You’ll know that Google logs where Wi-fi routers are to help with its location pinpointing services. You may not be particularly bothered about sharing your location because you might want to get the location services provided. However, we don’t all want to share everything, and though Google’s location server doesn’t, they say, identify people, you now have the option to rename your Wi-fi router so that the location will be ignored.
To refresh your memory, Google collects basic Wi-Fi data from network routers including Service Set Identifier (SSID) information and Media Access Control (MAC) addresses. This information is used to help the company improve the accuracy of some of its location-based products, such as Google Maps, by matching publicly broadcast information about local wireless networks with their approximate geographic location. This method of location approximation can be more efficient than GPS, as it’s faster and works indoors, as well as being more battery-efficient.
When Google’s Streetview camera cars were operating the location of each Wi-fi hotspot was logged and sometimes, accidentally, swallowed into the data maw. The records are still there, but updated every time someone uses Google maps and then bothers to get a GPS fix.
In order to opt-out of the database you need to rename your router with a trailing “_nomap”, and so the GPS fix is nixed. If your network SSID is ‘Home network’, you will need to change it to Home network_nomap’. Anything else you can do? Not really. In the end, as the Wi-fi router owner, you’re the boss but is this really an acceptable solution? Nobody was asked for permission to be in Google’s geo-database so why should the onus be on the invididual to opt-out? Is this another example of a corporation reaching into the private lives of the individual or an acceptable price to pay for a useful service?
Tags: Geolocation, Google, Wi-Fi
Filed in: Home Networking Gear, Industry Buzz