Google details simple method to opt out of Wi-Fi location database

By on November 15, 2011, 5:30 PM

Google is now offering a simple way for owners of Wi-Fi networks to opt out of the company’s location database. The search giant was at the center of a privacy debate on the subject over the summer when CNET drew attention to the subject.

Here’s how the whole process works and what you can to do prevent it. Wi-Fi enabled devices transmit a unique hardware identifier called a MAC address to anything that can read it within a radius of a couple hundred feet.  Android smartphones and tablets collect these identifiers and send them back to Google for inclusion in their Google Location Server.

Google uses this data to provide faster location detection services than standard GPS can provide. The problem that was discovered over the summer is that Google made their location databases publically available on the Internet. Furthermore it was reported that Street View cars actually collected the location of Wi-Fi devices in addition to simply snapping photos along roadways. The company stopped deploying Street View vehicles in Germany, although not specifically for this reason, nor was any other explanation given.

Google is addressing the issue today by providing users a simple way to exclude their networks from being cataloged. To opt out of the database, simply add the text “_nomap” to the name of your Wi-Fi network. For example, if your network is named “billsinternet”, you should change it to “billsinternet_nomap”.

Of course, Google isn’t the only guilty party here, as Apple and Microsoft were both accused of collecting similar data earlier this year.

Image courtesy of Alexander Lukin / Shutterstock

User Comments: 8

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Win7Dev said:

What happens for a big company that has a wireless network? They can't exactly just change the essid. It would lock every laptop out of their network. Also, they would need to reset basically all firewalls etc. Does this collection affect hidden networks?

Guest said:

I suppose those big networks could splurge for a tomato router and spoof their networks MAC, then broadcast _nomap from the spoofed router.

Clients would still connect, Google will drop the mac from their database.

ET3D, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Microsoft will next offer _dontmap, and you'll have to choose whether you'll prefer to not be saved by Microsoft or Google.

SalaSSin said:

ET3D said:

Microsoft will next offer _dontmap, and you'll have to choose whether you'll prefer to not be saved by Microsoft or Google.

And Apple will sue the hell out of them both, because of the use of "ap", as a judge will surely notice, is an integral part of their trademarks...

spydercanopus spydercanopus said:

I'm not changing all my wireless IDs just because google said so, or else. I see clasd action lawsuit on the horizon for making private location data public.

Guest said:

Change Google to Google_Don'tUse

jobeard jobeard, TS Ambassador, said:

Change Google to Google_Don'tUse

Now THAT's Funny! :LOL:

supportme said:

WTH... why do they the android devices have to detect MACs of other devices nearby and send it to google...?? They can map the locations using the locations of only the android devices.

Are they doing it just because they are powerful and there is no one to question them or is it just another "Innovation" that they talk about?

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