Peter Fleischer, Global Privacy Counsel, Google:
I’ve considered your offer to not add my wireless network to your location database in exchange for appending “_nomap” to the SSID. I am rejecting it out of hand and laughing at the idea that this is “greater choice for wireless access point owners.”
To start with, I’m not going to reconfigure all the wireless clients I support. I’m sorry that Google is facing increased scrutiny, legislation, and legal action for raping the world’s privacy in order to sell things, but changing an SSID is a big deal for everybody. Doesn’t matter if it’s grandma’s little wireless network or a giant intercontinental wireless hotspot setup, it’s a big pain in the ass to “protect” our privacy this way.
Second, my SSIDs are carefully chosen. I suspect it’s the same for many organizations, and that in some cases the SSIDs are even trademarked and hard-coded into things. Your proposal disrespects these choices and situations.
Third, I fully expect that all the data you’ve collected up to this point will remain in your database, especially since you were careful to not address this issue. SSIDs are not unique; multiple access points may broadcast the same SSID. MAC addresses are unique. To determine location you are most likely pairing GPS coordinates with my access point’s MAC address & signal strength. Since SSID is irrelevant in the context of your previously acquired data I don’t see how changing my SSID now will benefit me.
Fourth, your hope that this is “adopted universally” is absurd. None of your competitors are going to honor this. For example, Apple is using iOS 5 on millions of handsets to build a “crowdsourced” database of access points for their location database. Are they going care about _nomap? No.
Fifth, this is completely voluntary from your point of view. There is nothing that says that if I do all the work to change all of my networks & clients that you won’t change your mind in 90 days and index my access points anyhow. In fact, I fully expect you to, as limiting your options here does not increase shareholder value, especially considering that your competitors continue to do this same work.
So, in summary, your proposal is ridiculous, and demonstrates both an enormous ego and a complete lack of thought about the problem at hand. My recommendation to you is either to take a page from Apple’s playbook with iOS 5 and just shut up about how you’re collecting all this data, or get a spine and take the stance that your own Eric Schmidt has been espousing for years: people have no privacy. In fact, a position of “all your access points are spewing signals into the public domain, screw you we’re going to collect them, don’t broadcast and you’ll stay out of the database” would have been much more respectable than what you just did. And much more in-character.