Google said it is working on a way of letting innocent people with wireless networks opt out of the system it uses to locate mobile phone users.
The outfit is being leaned on by Eurocrats who take a more robust line towards user's privacy that our American cousins. The search and advertising monster inadvertently raised its miscreant head above the parapet by trawling around the globe snooping on domestic user's unsecured private Wi-Fi networks and 'mistakenly' Hoovering up confidential data.
The corporation is now seeking a way of allowing smartphone users to opt out of the triangulation process it uses to provide location-based data to phone users. According to a blog posted by Peter Fleischer, Google's privacy counsel, Google will allow owners of home Wi-Fi routers to remove them from a database phone users it has built.
European regulators warned Google that use of the data from Wi-Fi networks without owners' consent, is illegal in most parts of the continent.
"Every day millions of people around the world use location-based services, which rely on a user’s estimated location to provide a better product experience. Google Maps for Mobile, for example, helps people find themselves on a map and then locate places nearby," said Fleischer on the behalf of the defence. You'd think, however, that most phone users wouldhave some idea where they are, most of the time.
"As GPS is not always available and locations derived from cell towers aren’t very accurate, Google (like other Internet companies) uses publicly broadcast Wi-Fi data from wireless access points to improve our location-based services. By using signals from access points, smart phones are able to fix their general location quickly without using too much power," Fleischer continues.
"Even though the wireless access point signals we use in our location services don’t identify people, we think we can go further in protecting people’s privacy. At the request of several European data protection authorities, we are building an opt-out service that will allow an access point owner to opt out from Google's location services. Once opted out, our services will not use that access point to determine users’ locations."
Fleischer said Google will make this opt-out available globally later this autumn.
Or main quibble is that the Wi-Fi networks cost money to buy, run and maintain. They're not there for Google's convenience - or anyone else's come to that, other perhaps than our webless neighbours. The scheme should be opt-in not opt out.