Google Lets Users Opt Out of Wi-Fi Mapping

Posted by at 10:57 am on November 15, 2011

Following a similar move in Europe back in September, Google is now letting users as a whole opt out of having their location information accessible from Google’s Location Server. While the service never identified users, it simply provided their location information and nothing else. Still, some privacy advocates believe this is too much information and have put pressure on Google and others to allow users to opt out of it.

The location information is based on a user’s proximity to a wireless access point (a cell tower) and not GPS. It is often used indoors and for faster pinpointing as well as general efficiency as far as battery life is concerned.

Google said users who want to opt out should change their wireless network name (SSID) by adding “_nomap” to the end. So if their current SSID is “Network,” they need to make it read “Network_nomap.” Google posted instructions and more information online. Eventually, Google hopes this method will be used universally by other location providers throughout the industry as its solution doesn’t allow others to opt out with a user’s permission.

As is usually the case, the opt-out method won’t please privacy critics but we here at TOT think it is great step in the right direction. Back in May, the European Union’s Article 29 Working Party regulatory group argued location information should be opt-in rather than the other way around. Companies should assume location information was personal and that they need to get a user’s permission in order to access it, the organization said.


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