[sc:internet-category ]Google for years has tracked WiFi hotspots physical locations so they can better support their location services with Android and other products. Of course Google isn’t the only one doing this but with the rise of Android they are perhaps the largest collector of this information.
Yesterday they announced a way to opt-out of the service for those who have WiFi and don’t want to be identified by the location services.
Their solution? Everyone should rename their SSID’s to include “_nomap” at the end.
Ya, think about if for a moment. You’ve got it. That’s just plain insane.
Let’s list a few things off the top of my head that are wrong with this:
- It’s opt out instead of in.
- I have to rename by network and then reconnect all my devices.
- For non-English speaking areas, it makes no sense.
- It limits what I can call my network (32-6=26 letters)
- I HAVE TO HAVE A FREAKING UGLY SSID
Let’s face it, Google clearly believes that SSID’s (and probably everything else) are public information that they should have access too. It’s the users that should have to do the work to block Google’s access.
What it comes down to is simple, is an SSID the street number on your house or is it a “Home sweet home” sign hanging in your kitchen.
If it’s a street number then Google can drive by and read it from off of your property and there’s nothing you can do about it.
If it’s a sign in your kitchen, then they can’t without trespassing on your property (or at least being a peeping tom).
And here’s where it get tricky, it’s both. It all depends on the intended use of the network. If your McDonald’s giving out free WiFi access, then its public information like their street address. But if it’s for private use then it’s like the sign in your kitchen.
Google has decided that unless specifically told otherwise, everything is public and that’s just plain wrong.
Too make it even worse, they haven’t done the logical thing and made it easy for the end-user to opt out, they’ve made it a major headache. This presumably is to make sure that no one will actually take the time and effort to make the changes required to opt out and therefore keep this valuable information flowing in to them.
For a company that claims it’s motto is “do no evil”, they seem to have chosen every evil choice possible with this one:
Google Exec 1: So should we make this opt in (good) or opt out (evil)?
Google Exec 2: Oh, opt out of course we need that info.
Google Exec 1: Ok, should we setup a website to allow users to at least opt out (good) or not (evil)?
Google Exec 2: A website will be hacked asap and some hacker group will opt out everyone, we cannot have that!
Google Exec 1: Well ok, but people have to be able to opt out, otherwise the government will be all over us.
Google Exec 2: I’ve got it, instead of making it easy, international and quick (good) lets force everyone to have to do a lot of extra work so they won’t do it at all (evil) that way we can say we’re being good by giving everyone the option but won’t lose any real data that we just have to have!
Google Exec 1: Perfect, write that up in a happy sounding announcement and add some words around creating an industry standard to!
Ah to have been a fly on the wall that day .