Linked by Howard Fosdick on Mon 21st Nov 2011 07:48 UTC
Google Last June, CNET disclosed that Google collects and publishes the estimated locations of millions of phones, laptops, and other Wi-Fi devices. All without their owner's knowledge or permission. Google has finally announced how to exclude your home network from this database. Simply append "_nomap" to its name. Details over at CNET. Left unsaid is why the burden is placed on millions of individuals to opt-out, instead of on perpetrator Google.
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RE: Comment by clhodapp
by Alfman on Mon 21st Nov 2011 10:58 UTC in reply to "Comment by clhodapp"
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"If you don't want people to know about something, don't have it send out 'Here I am' radio messages..."

I see two issues with this:

1. Just because something is broadcasted over radio doesn't mean it's intended to be public. The mac address is one of those examples, it's how the technology works, people can't just turn it off.

2. There are both legitimate and illegitimate uses of public information.

For example, you may want your phone number in a telephone book for friends to look you up, this is undoubtedly very useful. But while this is technically "public", I don't think it's unreasonable to have laws in place to prohibit unwanted uses of the information - like being automatically registered into telephone solicitation database.

Cell phones have unique radio markers too, would you be ok if a 3rd party corp was willing and able create a large database to track them? Maybe, maybe not. What about tracking vehicle license plates? Again, maybe maybe not. What about face tracking? We're not going to solve these problems on this board, but I do think we should be keen on having a public debate about them.

Regardless of our opinions on whether these should be permitted or not, the resulting privacy concerns are real. If the engineers had known that widespread physical tracking of unique MAC addresses would become reality, they may very well have designed WiFi differently to protect against it.

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