Google Adds Opt Out to WiFi Mapping

Posted by Sam Churchill on

Google is adding privacy options in their WiFi location database. Today, Peter Fleischer, Google’s Global Privacy Counsel, announced a method to opt out of having your wireless access point included in the Google Location Server.

The wireless access point information we use in our location database, the Google Location Server, doesn’t identify people. But as first mentioned in September, we can do more to address privacy concerns.

We’re introducing a method that lets you opt out of having your wireless access point included in the Google Location Server. To opt out, visit your access point’s settings and change the wireless network name (or SSID) so that it ends with “_nomap.” For example, if your SSID is “Network,” you‘d need to change it to “Network_nomap.”

To get started, visit this Help Center article to learn more about the process and to find links with specific instructions on how to change an access point’s SSID for various wireless access point manufacturers.

As we explored different approaches for opting-out access points from the Google Location Server, we found that a method based on wireless network names provides the right balance of simplicity as well as protection against abuse. Specifically, this approach helps protect against others opting out your access point without your permission.

Finally, because other location providers will also be able to observe these opt-outs, we hope that over time the “_nomap” string will be adopted universally. This would help benefit all users by providing everyone with a unified opt-out process regardless of location provider.

ComputerWorld reviews how Google collects basic Wi-Fi data. It includes Service Set Identifier (SSID) information and Media Access Control (MAC) addresses, a burned-in unique identifier.

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.

In other news, Google announced on their Lat Long Blog that starting today, business labels for locations you’ve rated with Google Places will be highlighted on the map with your corresponding rating beneath it.

Additional places that Google’s system thinks you might enjoy visiting — either to eat, shop, or more — will be highlighted as well. These personalized recommendations are based on the places and ratings you’ve already shared. These highlighted map labels are available on the desktop and Google Maps for Android.

Posted by Sam Churchill on Tuesday, November 15th, 2011 at 11:10 am .

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