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Google To Allow Location Service Opt-out

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  • by lemur3 (997863) on Tuesday November 15, 2011 @11:02AM (#38059666)

    you use a special robots.txt file to opt out of websurfing.. why should this be any different?

    • by Lost+Found (844289) on Tuesday November 15, 2011 @11:05AM (#38059714)

      I basically agree with your point aside from the fact that you don't have to change your domain name to add a _norobots.com suffix in order to opt out of web crawling.

      • by DJRumpy (1345787) on Tuesday November 15, 2011 @12:34PM (#38060892)

        Not nearly the same situation either. When you put something on the web, you make it accessible to millions/billions of people. Your home AP is accessible to maybe 2 or 3 houses.

        You shouldn't have to 'opt out' of this. It should be opt in.

        • Not nearly the same situation either. When you put something on the web, you make it accessible to millions/billions of people. Your home AP is accessible to maybe 2 or 3 houses.

          Your home AP is accessible to more than that -- like anyone walking or driving by your house. Things that are broadcast in the clear, including SSIDs, are inherently public.

        • Why for the love of God would you say that? WiFi geolocation is very useful, and extremely important these days, especially if you're having trouble getting a GPS fix.

          Furthermore: An SSD is broadcasted - it's public. Why would you have any expectation of privacy?

          If I hang a big sign that says "Bemymonkeyland" out in front of my house, do I have a right to stop people from using that as a location marker? Do I need to opt in to letting people say "Oh yeah, sure, the nearest McDonald's is three blocks down th

      • by justin12345 (846440) on Tuesday November 15, 2011 @12:49PM (#38061110)
        This is a pretty clunky, it's akin to adding _nomap to every url you don't want indexed. Google might want to come up with a more elegant solution.

        At the same time, Google doesn't really need to offer any solution at all. "Is it just me, or should this 'service' be an explicit opt-in?" You are opting in when you decide to start broadcasting radio waves. Complaining about having your wifi recorded is like yelling in a public place and then complaining that people notice.

        Google might offer to ignore a network, but no one else will.
      • by Snaller (147050)

        But then a website doesn't bathe me in radiation as i walk past your house - your wifi point does.

      1. Robots.txt is hidden from view -- users never have to see it. Adding a suffix to a hotspot name is not hidden from view, everyone has to see it, and it becomes an annoyance.
      2. Websites are not related to home addresses. We are talking about physical locations, not some server on the Internet, and in most cases those locations are a person's home.

      Neither of these is a particularly convincing argument for technical people, of course. I do not care about my ESSID and I know that radio transmissions are not

  • _nomapo of course. Just sayin.

  • by klingens (147173) on Tuesday November 15, 2011 @11:10AM (#38059794)

    Everyone who doesn't want to get tracked by Facebook please change his name to Joe_NoFacebook Smith. Everyone who doesn't want to get tracked by Google +, add a "noPlus" instead. And everyone who doesn't want to get tagged by the Facebook picture recognition will please use a neon green colored "F" tattoo on their forehead.

    Thank you for your cooperation.

    Is anyone at Google still thinking anything? Do no Evil my ass.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Hello,

      I changed my name to Peter_NoFacebook Jones, but now I also want to opt out of Google+.

      I tried various iterations of the following:

      Peter_NoFacebook_noPlus Jones
      Peter_NoFacebook_NoPlus Jones
      Peter_noPlus_NoFacebook Jones
      Peter_NoPlus_NoFacebook Jones ...but none of them seem to be working.

      Is the "noPlus" flag case-sensitive, and is the ordering specific to either Facebook or Google? What is the delimeter for the Google+ opt-out.

      What should I name my daughter? Are these flags compatible with feminine name

    • by morgauxo (974071)
      How is recording your SSID and the location it was found at tracking you? If you set it to your name, or to some personal information then that's your fault for broadcasting your name or whatever personal information. Radio is a common resource. If you are broadcasting your info out into the public domain then it's nobody's fault but your own if someone records and shares it. Fortunately.. if you have encryption turned on that's pretty much all they get. Your SSID. If you don't have encryption turned o
    • by zmooc (33175)

      WTF is this crap doing being modden up?! Is this slashdot? Or did I somehow get lost on the Internet?! There is nothing evil about receiving and decoding radio signals. Keep your radiowaves to yourself if you don't want to be noticed. Just don't broadcast. It's that simple.

      It is utterly ridiculous it is somehow considered normal for just about anybody to transmit their filthy radio waves right through my body while listening to them is somehow considered evil. This is so incredibly wrong.

      Go Google! Keep up

  • by samael (12612) * <Andrew@Ducker.org.uk> on Tuesday November 15, 2011 @11:11AM (#38059806) Homepage

    Then don't broadcast it!

    They aren't doing any snooping on your private data here, just noting where different SSIDs are broadcasting. Unless your SSID name consists of your name, DOB, mother's maiden name, etc. you have nothing to worry about.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      My SSID does consist of my name, so that if my neighbors have a problem with my wi-fi, they know to contact me.

      I'm fine with everyone within wi-fi range knowing my name and where my house is (since they already do). I'm less fine with my name and house being pin-pointed on a map for everyone to see.

    • They're not mapping SSIDs (not unique), they're mapping MAC addresses (unique), which I can find easily even if you're not broadcasting an SSID.
  • Opt-in (Score:5, Insightful)

    by C_Kode (102755) on Tuesday November 15, 2011 @11:11AM (#38059818) Journal

    Everything should be opt-in. Never opt-out.

    • Re:Opt-in (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Hermanas (1665329) on Tuesday November 15, 2011 @11:16AM (#38059904)
      Is it okay with you if I reply to your comment?
    • by srussia (884021)

      Everything should be opt-in. Never opt-out.

      I would be fine with opt-out if all it took was appending "_notax" or "_freeman" to my name.

    • Everything should be opt-in. Never opt-out.

      I know you've probably never given it a second thought, and now might seem like a reaaaallly bad time--but would you like to opt in to our defibrillation program?

      Ok--real quick now CANIDEPLOYAIRBAGSRIGHTTHEFUCKNOW?

    • by morgauxo (974071)
      It is, you opt in when you broadcast. It's really no different than standing in your front yard and shouting. You don't have a right to be upset when somebody driving by records and shares what you say.
    • by zmooc (33175)

      Then can I please opt out of my neighbours transmitting their radiowaves into my home?

      You are turning things upside down, as is half the world. Just like it is not very common for people to be able to opt out of nearby people hearing them screaming, it is rather difficult for you to opt-out of my antenna receiving the radio signals your radio broadcasts. If you don't want to be heard, don't broadcast. It's that simple.

  • Yes (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Errol backfiring (1280012) on Tuesday November 15, 2011 @11:12AM (#38059836) Journal
    It should require an explicit opt-in.
    • by zmooc (33175)

      Opt-in? Just like my neighbours should explicitly get my permission to broadcast their fugly SSID into my home!

      IMHO broadcasting voids any reasonable expectation of not being noticed. This should not be opt in or opt out or whatever. Anybody is and should always be allowed to receive any radio signals. If you don't want me to receive your radiosignals, keep them to yourself.

  • Why do you care? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Manip (656104) on Tuesday November 15, 2011 @11:13AM (#38059844)
    While it is nice of Google to offer this, I don't really understand why people care. The SID was always public information as are the location of the AP. So to then turn around and accuse Google of invade your privacy by recording what essentially you've told your AP to shout from the rooftops seems a little contradictory to me. It isn't like SIDs are personal or in any way linked to you as an individual or even your surfing activity.

    So as I said, nice of Google to do this, but I'd question what anyone who opted out really hopes to accomplish by doing so...
    • Re:Why do you care? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Chrisq (894406) on Tuesday November 15, 2011 @11:18AM (#38059920)

      While it is nice of Google to offer this, I don't really understand why people care. The SID was always public information as are the location of the AP. So to then turn around and accuse Google of invade your privacy by recording what essentially you've told your AP to shout from the rooftops seems a little contradictory to me. It isn't like SIDs are personal or in any way linked to you as an individual or even your surfing activity. So as I said, nice of Google to do this, but I'd question what anyone who opted out really hopes to accomplish by doing so...

      An SSID of "I hate Islam" might work well in the leafy suburbs of Surrey, but you might not want the location broadcast world wide

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by LubosD (909058)

        but you might not want the location broadcast world wide

        Sorry, where can I download the complete database of AP locations? Because as far as I know, the database "read access" works the other way around. Your phone submits a list of APs around you to Google's servers and in turn you get your approximate location. I don't understand what the problem here is.

        • by canajin56 (660655)
          Actually, your phone submits a list of AP MAC addresses to Google, and Google records those along with your phone's GPS data (if available), or it sends you your approximate location (if GPS data isn't available). This new thing will tell your phone what SSIDs to ignore, but not only does Google not publish the SSID location database, they don't even have one. These people are in a massive panic over somebody learning their MAC address.
      • by canajin56 (660655)
        Good thing Google records MAC addresses not SSID then?
    • "Public information => no need for privacy" is a very typical logical fallacy. Privacy is not a black-or-white thing, categorizing things into private/public misses the point.

      For example: when you move out of your home, your location is public information. Anyone who can see you knows that you're there. Similarly, your "image" is public information, anyone can take a picture of you. This does not violates your privacy, as long as it happens by random people in the street. If someone tracks your every mov

      • by delinear (991444)
        Nobody has access to the data. Your device sends Google a request saying devices A, B and C are nearby, Google then looks these up in their database, decides you are likely somewhere near location X and returns that location. If you have something you want to keep private being broadcast by your router, you should be more worried about the guy outside your house reading that information on his phone than Google keeping a private database of that same data.
    • It isn't like SIDs are personal or in any way linked to you as an individual...

      My middle name of Linksys goes back six generations, you insensitive clod!

    • by Fishbulb (32296)

      I could see a case where someone's life may be in jeopardy if there was a searchable index of SSID names that automatically zooms into a location on a map. Someone being stalked by an aggressive ex, for instance, who doesn't realize their SSID is tied to a map location that is easily searchable. Let's say said aggro ex set up the WAP in first place and so knows the SSID but lost it in the divorce/breakup, or even willingly gave it up knowing they'd eventually be able to search for it via google maps.

  • ... then it should be opt-out.
  • by mikeplokta (223052) on Tuesday November 15, 2011 @11:15AM (#38059886)

    There's no point saying "It should be opt-in", because it can't possibly work on an opt-in basis. There's no way to get a sufficient number of opted-in wireless access points. The available options are "Opt-out is OK" or "The service shouldn't exist".

    • by HarrySquatter (1698416) on Tuesday November 15, 2011 @11:47AM (#38060332)

      There's no way to get a sufficient number of opted-in wireless access points.

      Boohoo? Since when is that information owed to Google?

      • by Aeiri (713218)
        You successfully read 2 of the 3 sentences in his post. If you read the third, you'll see that he has no opinions stated in this post whatsoever.
      • by Tim C (15259)
        It's not owed to Google, but that's not the point. The point is that Google is taking public information and turning it into a service that is useful to ordinary people. You may disagree, but personally I think that's socially useful and I for one will not be opting out.
      • Boohoo? Since when is that information owed to Google?

        Its public since you started broadcasting it.

        Google is part of the public.

      • by kiwimate (458274)

        Agreed. I have quite a different opinion from a number of people, evidently. This article on Slashdot is the first I'd heard of this (and I am sure I'll get some abuse for admitting that, but...). I work in the IT field, have done so for 25 years professionally (many more years as a hobby, like most people), and read tech sites like Slashdot on a daily basis.

        So my reaction is that if someone in my position is only just becoming aware of this, how is Joe Public going to hear about this? Forget about "it's pu

    • The available options are "Opt-out is OK" or "The service shouldn't exist".

      Then the service shouldn't exist. Simple enough.

      But then again, there may be a third option you're not considering. What are these location services used for? Checking into restaurants, tagging pictures with locations, checking the weather, etc. Where do I do these things? Mostly when I'm out on the town, or at home. So, make deals with Starbucks, AT&T, Barnes and Noble, etc. to use their SSIDs in the database. These companies have vast networks of wifi hotspots so it should cover a good deal of high tr

      • by delinear (991444)
        What you're suggesting is not logistically feasible. Even if you ignore the difficulties of getting sufficient numbers of businesses on board with this to make it worthwhile (and the fact that you's still be missing out large swathes of any non-urban locations), what happens if your local restaurant goes out of business (happening quite a lot in this current climate) and you buy their router in an auction? Are Google then liable for the fact that you didn't realise someone else had opted you in? I'm sorry,
  • What happens if I want to hide my access point from Apple, Google and Skyhook at once? Should I name by AP as

    LINKSYS_NOMAP_NOAPPLE_NOSKYHOOK

    or will this be a global suffix?

    • by Nerdfest (867930) on Tuesday November 15, 2011 @11:24AM (#38060012)
      My guess that they didn't make it nogoogle so that Apple and the other mappers can respect it if they wish. Personally, I think broadcasting your SSID is opting in and this is not required.
    • by dn15 (735502)

      What happens if I want to hide my access point from Apple, Google and Skyhook at once? Should I name by AP as

      LINKSYS_NOMAP_NOAPPLE_NOSKYHOOK

      or will this be a global suffix?

      From TFA:

      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.

    • _nomodunderrated_nomodflamebait_modawesome_doubleawesome_kthx

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 15, 2011 @11:20AM (#38059946)

    I don't care that much if Google maps my AP. Because if someone is lost out where I am, they're going to need all the help they can get.

  • by ZorinLynx (31751) on Tuesday November 15, 2011 @11:35AM (#38060138) Homepage

    Why in the heck do you people care if Google maps your AP's location? It's not like this information can be used for anything but it's intended purpose: wifi location services.

    Making it opt-in would make it useless as people won't care enough to opt-in.

    This isn't a privacy issue at all. The tinfoil-hat crowd really needs to get a life.

  • by IGnatius T Foobar (4328) on Tuesday November 15, 2011 @11:37AM (#38060172) Homepage Journal
    Google has every right to use your SSID for geolocation purposes. The privacy whiners all seem to conveniently forget that when you operate a wifi access point, you are BROADCASTING your SSID to anyone within range. It is the same as if you switched on an AM or FM radio transmitter in your home or business and continuously spoke into the microphone: "My network is named kitty-net ... my network is named kitty-net ... my network is named kitty-net ..."

    If you don't want something known to anyone within range, you might consider not BROADCASTING it. Every access point in the world has the ability to shut off its SSID announcements.
    • by Missing.Matter (1845576) on Tuesday November 15, 2011 @12:11PM (#38060642)

      Every access point in the world has the ability to shut off its SSID announcements.

      If you're not broadcasting your SSID, Google will still map it. If you don't want them to, you'll actually have to broadcast an SSID, and append _nomap to it, since anyone can find your router's MAC address even if you're not broadcasting your SSID.

    • The thing is, where exactly would you draw the line?

      Yes, I'm broadcasting my SSID - however, my reason for doing so is that I don't have to tell guests, patrons, etc. what the SSID is supposed to be and how they can enter that on their OS of choice. All OS's have at least a user-friendly method for connecting to an AP that does broadcast its SSID.
      I'm leaving aside that Google may still record APs that simply don't broadcast an SSID and thus requiring you to actually turn it on and fill in something along w

  • I value privacy as much as the next person but I don't see why this matters. Network names do not give away anything personal unless you *choose* to put something personal into the SSID. And if you do that you have "opted in" to broadcasting your personal information. Or am I missing something here?

  • Not broadcasting your SSID is not going to keep Google, Apple, Skyhook, etc... from learning your Wifi MAC address and mapping it. The best answer to this is to manually define your Wifi MAC address. Many consumer based routers let you specify a specific mac. So does DD-WRT. So everyone who doesn't like this idea shoud just change their MAC address to a random address from the DB from another country such as DE:AD:BE:EF:13:37. This MAC address geolocates to Latitude: 44.4899982 Longitude: 11.3569865 Pia
    • by qubezz (520511)
      Rotating your AP's MAC every hour should do the trick...
      • Many ISPs require you to tell them if you have a new MAC Address.
        Access gets cut off if the modem sees a different MAC than the DSL/Cable line says it should be seeing.

  • by Nanosphere (1867972) on Tuesday November 15, 2011 @11:48AM (#38060352)
    My SSID is:

    Nanosphere'); Drop
    Table SSIDs;--
  • by kakris (126307) on Tuesday November 15, 2011 @12:10PM (#38060634)

    Just to clarify what seems to confuse some people here, the actual service doesn't use the SSID for location, it uses the MAC address. They're using the SSID to allow you to opt out, but when someone submits WIFI info for location, they're sending the mac address of the station, not the SSID. MAC addresses are unique (or at least they're supposed to be. I'm looking at you Shanzai.) SSIDs are not unique. If they used SSIDs, you'd never be able to figure out where "linksys" or "netgear" actually are.

  • I don't care if a visitor let's the world know that he is at or near my house. What I object to is applications tracking *my* movements.

    Mobile devices typically allow users to turn this off. On my Android Xperia X10, it's under "Location and Security Settings" and has separate flags for GPS & wireless networks.

  • When I set up an AP I'm broadcasting the SSID to everyone in range. I know this when I set it up. It's pretty much a physical requirement of wireless that you broadcast at least it's presence. Even secured point-to-point links broadcast a signal that any receiver in range can pick up. If I care that people know my AP exists in a particular spot, I shouldn't be using a broadcast technology!

    NB: getting on my wireless won't help you much. Most of the computers in my home are on the wired LAN for security and t

  • The privacy raping is putrid. I simply don't trust them, but I still have to wait until either another contract change (how about Slashdot post the article in time next go around?) or until April to sever all ties. I went Android because it seemed to have more favorable developer sales contracts, but I'll deal with the Apple sandbox to not have my contact info monetized.

  • Ok, I've said it before, I'll say it again.

    If you broadcast something over any radio service (part 15 wifi included) and you think it is or should be private...
    YOU ARE A MORON
    MORON MORON GO AWAY, RETURN TO THE NETS ANOTHER DAY (or don't).

    I care so much because I don't want to see any new laws restricting the use of receivers. I don't want to see somebody's imagined (and in this case it really is imaginary) privacy rights to result in new restrictions on something that might actually have been useful
  • Coming Soon: Opportunity to Opt Out of the Opt Out List.
  • by ugen (93902) on Tuesday November 15, 2011 @07:52PM (#38067834)

    Why not allow users to enter their MAC address on something like donottrack.google.com - and remove AP from their database based on the entered information? That would be a proper method, that would work instantly, rather than relying on periodic rescan of your general vicinity. It would also avoid having to reconfigure every computer, wireless printer and other devices on the network, having a ridiculous looking SSID and general douchebaggery.

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