15 Nov 2011

Google's new "Google Location Server" is to map out locations of wireless networks as part of their data collection. 

The trick to not showing up in their service is to add the "_nomap" to the end of your wireless network name (SSID).  So, as an example, if you are one of the many Netgear users who have the name as the default, "netgear" you would need to use the admin interface on your router or access point and rename it to "netgear_nomap" (without the quotes).  Now your access point will not show up in Google's Wi-Fi network mapping.

This task of renaming an access point may not be a big deal for the experienced user, but for the common user, who often doesn't even have security set on their access point, may prove a challenge.

Peter Fleischer of Google Global Privacy Counsel has stated that the renaming of the SSID "provides the right balance of simplicity as well as protection against abuse".  Or more so, "this approach helps protect against others opting out your access point without your permission."

But despite this Google is pushing on with this, striving to have the "_nomap" tag adopted by all location providers, not just Google.  While Google has stated that it does not collect personal information for its data collection, privacy groups are likely to still be unnerved.

To change the SSID on your router or access point, you would hook an ethernet cable into the network and access the router's admin page via a browser like http://192.168.1.1 or similar (this address varies from manufacturer to manufacturer, many users change the defaults, but those users would fall under the experienced category).  In the wireless settings of the interface you would just add the "_nomap" to the end and hit apply.  Now you reconnect your devices to the "New" Wi-Fi network, while going into your devices settings and removing the old one to reduce confusion.  Or you could just turn off SSID visibility as well.

We should also keep in mind a few things about what Google is trying to accomplish here.  They are trying to enhance map quality by providing other ways of enhancing such services as 911.  There are cases where callers may not have a GPS in their phone, so with such precision as wi-fi mapping, it can enhance precision over cellular towers.  And the act of simply "broadcasting" your wi-fi into the public makes it fair game in and of itself, for this purpose as well.  More or less the "_nomap" seems to be Google's legal workaround to prevent privacy concerns.

Source:  Google/Tomshardware


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