From tagging a post with your location to checking into a restaurant or simply finding out where you are, location-based services have become some of the most popular features of today’s Internet. Google, like other Internet companies, uses publicly broadcast Wi-Fi data from wireless access points (APs) to improve its location-based services. By using signals from APs, smartphones are able to fix their general location quickly without using too much power.
In a blog post, Google’s global public council Peter Fleischer wrote, “Even though the wireless AP signals we use in out location services don’t identify people, we think we can go further in protecting people’s privacy… At the request of several European data protection authorities, we are building an opt-out service that will allow an AP owner to opt out from Google’s location services. Once opted out, our services will not use that AP to determine users’ locations,” wrote Fleischer.
In this week’s Google blog, a post by Fleischer indicated that Google is introducing a method that lets you opt out of having your wireless AP included in the Google location server. To opt out, according to Fleischer’s blog post, visit your AP’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,” noted Fleischer.
According to Fleischer’s blog post, the company explored different approaches for opting-out APs from the Google location server, and 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, stated Fleischer.
Since other location providers will also be able to observe these opt-outs, Google hopes 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,” explains Fleischer.
Ashok Bindra is a veteran writer and editor with more than 25 years of editorial experience covering RF/wireless technologies, semiconductors and power electronics. To read more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.
Edited by Rich Steeves