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Google to allow Wi-Fi data collection opt-outs

Google is to let people opt out of having their Wi-Fi hotspots included on the company's mapping systems.In a blog post on Tuesday, Google global privacy counsel Peter Fleischer said the company was "building an opt-out service that will allow an access point owner to opt out from Google's location services".
Written by David Meyer, Contributor

Google is to let people opt out of having their Wi-Fi hotspots included on the company's mapping systems.

In a blog post on Tuesday, Google global privacy counsel Peter Fleischer said the company was "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, noting that the service was being built at the request of "several European data protection authorities".

A Google spokesperson later confirmed that Fleischer had specifically referred to the Dutch and Irish data protection authorities.

Like rivals Microsoft and Apple, Google has spent the last few years building up a database of people's Wi-Fi hotspots, in order to boost the accuracy of its location-based services by augmenting GPS data.

These practices hit the headlines last year, when it emerged that Google was not only logging the basic details of routers' media access control (MAC) addresses and service set identifiers (SSIDs) using its Street View cars, but also gathering passwords and other fragments of the transmissions taking place over those routers.

Privacy regulators around the world attacked Google over the collection of the data fragments, which the company blamed on rogue code in the Street View cars' systems.

Fleischer reiterated in his post on Tuesday that "the wireless access point signals we use in our location services don't identify people", and said the opt-out service would be "ready to launch later this autumn". The service will be available around the world, he added.

UPDATE: This post was edited on 15 September to include the identification of the Dutch and Irish data protection authorities as the motivators behind the change.

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