Location services work through a database which “matches publicly broadcast information about local wireless networks with their approximate geographical location.”
Whilst the information Google uses doesn’t name names and works off MAC addresses which don’t disclose any info other than a string of numbers, Google are aware that people still have privacy concerns about the use of their access point.
So the search giant has come up with a way for users to opt out of the database, which it hopes in time will be adopted by all tech companies who use location services.
To opt out, users must be able to gain access to their router settings and change the SSID name so that it ends with “_nomap”.
For example, if a router has the name “SKY2278”, then the user would change this name to “SKY2278_nomap”.
Once this has been carried out, the next time Google locations server receives a request from the router, it will note the opt-out and remove the information from the database.
Whilst there is no real reason users need to opt-out of the scheme, it is useful for those who are concerned with privacy.
Location services are becoming more and more popular and having your wireless router included in the database enables many of these, such as Google Maps, to work properly.
The information that is broadcast in order for location services to use a router doesn’t contain any personal information at all, just a string of numbers.
Google hopes that other providers will note and respect users who have chosen to opt-out and remove them from their databases too. The simplicity of the changes ensure that users can easily opt-out and companies have an easy way to see this, making for a measure that the search giant thinks could become an industry standard.
For more information and for instructions for specific routers, take a look at Google’s more in-depth article.