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15 November 2011, 21:16

Google details location services opt-out for Wi-Fi access point owners

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Google logo As previously promised, Google has detailed how users with wireless access points can opt-out of the company's location-based services. In a post on Google's European Public Policy Blog, Peter Fleischer, Global Privacy Counsel, says: "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."

To opt-out of having their wireless access point added to Google's Location Server, users should change their wireless network's name, also known as the service set identifier (SSID), so that it ends with "_nomap". A network named "Home", for example, would need to be changed to "Home_nomap". Fleischer notes that Google also hopes that other location providers will be able to observe the same "_nomap" opt-out flag, resulting in "a unified opt-out process regardless of location provider".

The company's move to provide an opt-out feature comes in response to objections by several data protection authorities in Europe. Public and private Wi-Fi networks are used by Google and other companies to estimate a user's location for various internet-based services on, for example, Android-based smartphones.

Further information about Google's location-based services, including instructions on how to change the SSID of a number of access points from various manufacturers, can be found in a Help Center article.

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