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Google offers a Streetview WiFi collection opt-out

Clunky solution to a bothersome problem
Wed Nov 16 2011, 09:54

INTERNET SEARCH OUTFIT Google is offering European citizens the chance to opt out of having their wireless networks mapped out by its Streetview cars, something that has caused it a lot of problems among regulators and governments in the past.

The feature, which no one welcomed, has had some spin from Google, and while it is offering citizens a chance to opt-out it is also suggesting that staying in is a good thing.

"From tagging a post with your location, to checking in to a restaurant, to simply finding out where you are, location-based services have become some of the most popular features of today's Internet," said Peter Fleischer, global privacy counsel at Google.

"One of the key ways technology companies are able to determine a location for these services is through a location database, which matches publicly broadcast information about local wireless networks with their approximate geographic location. By looking for wireless access points that are close to a user's phone, location providers can return the approximate location you need." Nice, eh?

Well, not really, and especially if you never asked for it in the first place. Google said that the information that it gathers does not identify people, which it has said before, but added that by letting people opt-out it will 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," added Fleischer.

To opt out, users should get into their access point's settings and change the wireless network name (or SSID) so that it ends with "_nomap". There is a help page here.

"We found that a method based on wireless network names provides the right balance of simplicity as well as protection against abuse," added Fleischer. µ


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