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!
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”.