Google Claims Voluntary Opt Out Is Doing Us A Favor

November 15, 2011

So… please read this post from Google regarding wireless access points. If I am interpreting it correctly – without all the “hey we’re doing something new and cool that will make the world a better place” corporate cruft:

Which is lame. Google should take into consideration the default setup of home wireless routers these days. I just set up an AT&T UVerse 2Wire thingie which I thought was just a modem/router, but also has wireless functionality. I seriously had no idea. I was able to figure this out when hooking up the Airport Extreme, and therefore disabled the 2Wire’s WiFi – I think. But by default out of the box, and likely for the vast majority of Uverse users, it’s on, and possibly broadcasting publicly. I had to turn all that off, and even then, I’m not sure I did it correctly.

And then I think about the aged relatives with wide open networks, and all the publicly-broadcast networks viewable with the iPhone, everywhere. A heck of a lot of people opting in to Google’s tracking without even realizing they’re doing so.

Anyhow, I’m not even sure what sort of WiFi locations Google is tracking. Only businesses? Only networks that broadcast publicly? Only unencrypted networks? I would imagine hiding the network name and adding encryption would be a pretty clear signal that a network isn’t public, ┬ábut I’m not sure.

I feel the opt-out situation should be flipped around. Google should only collect locatio information on open WiFi networks set up by businesses, and only those with an explicit opt in – how about “_yesmap” appended to the network name. That’s the only approach that makes any sort of common sense.

I may just put “_nomap_screw_you_google” on the end of our 2Wire thing as a statement – if I can figure out how to do it…


  1. JC says:

    I feared this when Facebook got away with its “opt-out” approach to privacy a few years ago. Let one company get away with that sort of thing once, and everyone else follows.

    Once again, we all need to question this notion of “free” services. This WiFi thing seems small, which is why no one will notice now. But what happens when Google decides to take away the “anonymous” part of the equation, and they start selling my home address to the highest bidder next time I perform a search, unless I opt out?

    Say what you want about Apple, but I know how Apple gets my money. It’s a very clear and open exchange of cash for products and services. When they track data about me, I’m told explicitly, and I have to check the box to opt IN, not out. Siri is off by default. iCloud is off by default. That goes a long way to building trust.

  2. Mike says:

    Yeah, this is creepy. Nobody’s going to do it, including me.

    I’m not modifying my SSID to put this ugly string at the end, then reconfiguring every device to use the new SSID. And what happens when another company comes along with the same idea, and insists on another string at the end?

    I wish Congress would focus on things like this, rather than trying to censor the internet (or rather, given their track record, maybe I don’t).