Google offers opt-out for Street View Wi-Fi tracking

Google Street View

After the debacle surrounding Google Street View last year, the internet giant has offered people the chance to opt-out of having their Wi-Fi location data taken when its cars are doing the rounds.

Google will make it simple for users to opt-out, as all they have to do is change their SSID to end with '_nomap.'

When Google took payload data from Wi-Fi connections across the world and its actions were discovered, the company faced legal action in various countries last year.

We hope that over time the '_nomap' string will be adopted universally.

The company said it was all a mistake, after an engineer wrote a piece of code, which was created for an "experimental Wi-Fi project." This code was then unwittingly included in software used by Google's mobile team when it was collecting "basic Wi-Fi network data" on the Street View collection.

In the UK the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) told Google to improve its privacy processes as the company avoided a hefty fine.

Yesterday, Google confirmed it would allow people to opt out of having their wireless access point included in the Google Location Server.

"The wireless access point information we use in our location database, the Google Location Server, doesn't identify people. But as first mentioned in September, we can do more to address privacy concerns," said Peter Fleischer, global privacy counsel at Google, in a blog post.

"To opt out, visit your access point's settings and change the wireless network name (or SSID) so that it ends with '_nomap.' For example, if your SSID is 'Network,' youd need to change it to 'Network_nomap.'"

Fleischer said using this method provided "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," he added.

"Finally, because other location providers will also be able to observe these opt-outs, we hope that over time the '_nomap' string will be adopted universally. This would help benefit all users by providing everyone with a unified opt-out process regardless of location provider."

Late last month, Google confirmed it would be taking Street View inside businesses for those who wanted to take part.

Tom Brewster

Tom Brewster is currently an associate editor at Forbes and an award-winning journalist who covers cyber security, surveillance, and privacy. Starting his career at ITPro as a staff writer and working up to a senior staff writer role, Tom has been covering the tech industry for more than ten years and is considered one of the leading journalists in his specialism.

He is a proud alum of the University of Sheffield where he secured an undergraduate degree in English Literature before undertaking a certification from General Assembly in web development.