Google’s Geolocation Service, something to be concerned about?

Not a big fan of Google’s geolocation service? You’re in for some good news then.

Following a decision by the Dutch Data Protection Authority (DPA) that the process is in violation of laws in the Netherlands, Google is letting network owners from around the world opt out of its geolocation mapping service, meaning you can opt out of having your wireless access point included in the Google Location Server.

So, if you don’t want to have your Wi-Fi hotspot mapped, Google’s Peter Fleischer says (or writes, rather) that you can opt out by visiting your access point’s settings and changing the wireless network name (or SSID) so that it ends with “_nomap.” For example, if your SSID is “Network” you’d need to change it to “Network_nomap”.

Well, so far so good. But wait a second! Why do you have to fiddle with your SSID? Why doesn’t Google offer an online opt-out tool, instead? Well, Fleischer has an explanation for this one too:

“As we explored different approaches for opting-out access points from the Google Location Server, we found that a method based on wireless network names provides the right balance of simplicity as well as protection against abuse. Specifically, this approach helps protect against others opting out your access point without your permission.”

So, it’s for simplicity for users, right? Sounds fair enough. Besides, it would be easier for Google to handle the matter, wouldn’t it? Letting users opt out would just create big holes in its location mapping abilities. But, (there is a big but here) what about users who don’t know how to change the SSID on their routers? Or worse, what if they don’t know what an SSID is in the first place? And it doesn’t end here; there is a truckload of other technicalities like simultaneous wireless-dual band routers and Wi-Fi-enabled HDTVs using 5GHz which – we honestly think – is too difficult for non-technical users to understand, let alone make adjustments in them.

Google, however, seems to be paying no heed to these holes in its opt-out policy. And why would it? Having an opt-in policy (instead of this one) would give it a lot less data, after all.

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