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Google is mapping your wi-fi access point and the opt-out option stinks

Google is mapping your wi-fi access point and the opt-out option stinks

Google opt-out for Wi-Fi access points

In an official blog post yesterday, Google announced that they were offering “greater choice for wireless access point owners” by allowing them to opt-out of being entered into Google’s location-based search results. The method to accomplish this could be considered almost belligerently inelegant: change the name of your SSID to append the term “_nomap” on it. Talk about kludgy!

Google says they want to do no evil

Remember this, Google?

For those readers who have wireless APs in their homes and prefer not to have them mapped by Google, you can simply change the SSID. Simple? Google makes it sound like they’re doing us all a big favor by utilizing this method. The problem is, most home AP owners don’t have the technical savvy to accomplish this, and many more don’t even own their own APs—they’re often owned by the internet service provider. Occasionally, ISP tech support requires a factory reset, or replacement, of the home gateway device, and that means the SSID goes back to default. Now we are expected to remember yet another chore—be sure to add “_nomap” to the end of our SSIDs.

Why not opt-in instead?

While cataloging the world’s information is a noble goal, this is something that really needs to be solved in a better way. The “opt-out” strategy is far, far more intrusive than the “opt-in” strategy. There are many situations where someone would want to have their AP listed in public search—retail businesses such as coffee shops and bookstores may love having this information available. However, the number of people who will be enraged at this step and will want to opt-out probably far outweigh the number of those that would choose to opt-in—especially considering the annoying and confusing method by which to do it.

Google treats their mission almost like a holy mandate. However, in their “do no evil” philosophy, they should step back and really think about asking people if they want to be considered part of their database rather than just adding everybody in and letting the users “deal with it”.


  1. Thrax
    Thrax This is extremely shitty. I'm not renaming my AP just for Google.
  2. Basil
    Thrax wrote:
    I'm not renaming my AP just for Google.
    Yeah, AbrahamLinksys-nomap just doesn't have the same ring to it.
  3. primesuspect
  4. Thrax
    Thrax Shazbot! :F-nomap
  5. RyanMM
    RyanMM I'm normally a member of the Google defense force, but this time, bloody ell. I got nothing. This should absolutely be opt-in. Allow people to go to their website, enter an SSID and Lat Long, and call it a day. There's no reason non-hidden, non-stupidnamed SSIDs should be part of Google's for-profit machinations.
  6. ardichoke
    ardichoke Meh... who cares? The mapping is used to improve location based services. All they're collecting is wifi hotspot names and corresponding coordinates. There's no personal data involved. I've always failed to see why everyone gets so bent out of shape about this. Of all the intrusive and frustrating things Google does, this one shouldn't even move the needle on the rage-o-meter.

    Hell, if you really want to opt-out, just turn off ESSID broadcast.
  7. tazzy So, how do I opt out of Apple's wifi mapping? (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skyhook_Wireless)

    How do I opt out of Microsoft's wifi mapping? (http://www.winrumors.com/microsoft-open-sources-bing-streetside-wi-fi-data-collection-software/)

    My point is that this whole thing is blown out of proportion. If you broadcast an SSID, you are BROADCASTING an SSID. Anyone can associate the location of the SSID with a GPS location.
  8. Dan Animal According to the google blog post you linked to; to opt-out you need to append "_nomap" (not "-nomap" as you have written above).
    I'm not very worried by this as it's just logging the location of active radio transmitters, which can't really be considered private since they're transmitting.
  9. jp-w They are only mapping information that is already publicly available. Nor is it personally identifiable.
  10. Duncan Bayne > Hell, if you really want to opt-out, just turn off ESSID broadcast.


    Notice the word 'broadcast'. If you broadcast something, you can scarcely complain about someone mining the data.
  11. François Everyone can map every wifi access point, only Google propose to not do it.
  12. primesuspect
    primesuspect Thanks. Corrected the "-" to "_"
  13. Snarkasm
    Snarkasm I mean, I'm with these guys - they're mapping where your signal exists, not who it's associated with, the traffic transmitted by/to it, or who's connected to it. This is a tempest in a teapot.
  14. Kwitko
    Kwitko It's really not a big deal. In fact, this will make it fun for people to come up with original and funny SSIDs.
  15. Buba The other option would be to turn off your SSID broadcast.
  16. Jhaer
  17. ardichoke
    ardichoke globes_arent_touching_nomap
  18. CB
    CB I think it's not the mapping that is new, it's only the opting out? so, this is a step toward privacy, not away...
  19. steadyflux
    steadyflux Yeah, from what I can tell, this has been going on FOREVER, and actually improves your LBS stuff. You can always 'opt out' by just not broadcasting your SSID I think.
  20. GHoosdum
    GHoosdum 2WIRE244-nomap...ohshi-
  21. Snarkasm
    Snarkasm I was discussing it with Ryan, and here's the thing:

    People are acting like you say "I wanna go here" and Google says "wander around the city until you see the wireless network 'lolnuts', and it's somewhere around there."

    That's not anywhere near what's happening. You ask Google "where am I?" and Google checks available, broadcasting signals near you - cellular, GPS, and available wifi - and says "you're about here-ish."

    There is no part of it that gives away your information. And if it did: it's an SSID and a lat/long. What part of that is sensitive information? Your SSID can be retrieved by anybody walking down your street if you broadcast it. You can't request a credit card on the basis of knowing your SSID. Nobody can buy a car in your name by knowing your rough latitude and longitude. And beyond all that, if it gets out, all anybody knows is that *somebody* lives around these coordinates and has a wireless network named 'lolnuts.'

    What's the problem? Who are all these people setting their Social Security numbers as their SSID? Can I live near them?
  22. CK This is a very weak complaint. You're broadcasting the SSID, yet you want that information treated as if it were a secret. If you don't want anyone to use it, don't broadcast it.
  23. Mt_Goat
    Mt_Goat I will continue to broadcast "yournuts_myvise_letsparty". I don't need "yournuts_myvise_letsparty_NOMAP". It just takes the fun out of it! Then they would need to get past my crazy 64 character key before I change it, again.
  24. CB
    CB and I'll continue to broadcast 'MOT-45' with absolutely no security enabled because my router sucks, and it's not a high enough priority to replace it. sigh...

    at least it's not really powerful enough to be tapped into by our neighbors. (and I watch the MAC connected list to make sure that no one taps in regularly).
  25. Sp00nman
    Sp00nman Don't get me wrong, I could care less if some advertising company has my SSID and location. Oh wait, maybe I do...

    Many of my neighbors have their last name as their SSID. They didn't ask to have this publicly available to people further than 50 feet from their house.

    Ask some of these people if they even know what an SSID is, I'm sure you won't get an answer, just a blank stare. So asking them to change it or turn off broadcasting (inconvenience) would be pointless.

    Yes it's being broadcast, locally, not stored on a server to assist in precise location of anonymous users for the higher purpose of selling advertising. So there are some concerns. Albeit, not any that really bother me personally.

    My SSID is suckitgoogle_mapthis and I will change it right after they map it to ensure their data is inaccurate. HA!
  26. Annes
    Annes I'm with the "not a big deal" people - I've never broadcast my SSID and never will.
  27. malc I want a 400w set of boots like back in the old cb days..Then my data will get thru...
  28. malc NO malc the issue was - broadcasting ids...?....Well if the gov of this country gave us the powerboost from milliwatts to watts then all our aps could be named the same and we'd all have a free www,intranet...jst a passing thought
  29. ardichoke
    ardichoke WHAT in the name of Torvalds did I just read? SOMEONE KILL IT WITH FIRE PLZKTHX?
  30. Canti
    Canti The truths malc has spoken are beyond your comprehension.
  31. sunofmalc NO malc the issue is my cat tiger wears a 1.21 jigawatt set of boots.... I overcloaked him like in the good old days and the powerboost allows him to time travel and free the whole internets from the beginning... he a king tiger like al gore :rarr::rarr: rarr: pickylickybooboo
  32. shwaip
    shwaip ip banning sunofmalc...
  33. primesuspect
  34. Thrax
    Thrax This one wasn't me, I swear it.
  35. midga
    midga Yeah...this is hardly a big deal. If someone set up their WAP to have their last name, that was their dumb. If someone doesn't know how to change their SSID, I'm sorry but I have little sympathy for people who don't bother to learn about the things they use. The fact that they're letting you opt-out is pretty awesome, really, and there's no reason why they should have to. Also, consider the fact that the only way they would know an SSID would want to opt out is if it says it wants to opt out. They can't see anything else. I for one appreciate the convenience of their system being able to locate my phone (when I need to find something nearby) based on something besides a spotty GPS signal through a crappy GPS receiver.

    If you're really offended by this fairly innocuous act of Google's (that is, allowing you to set up your SSID to be automatically removed from their database simply by appending to the name) then...I dunno. It just seems like out of all the problems that exist, this isn't even worth mentioning, much less championing. Go find a charity or do some volunteer work or something and help people with Real Problems.

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