Late on Monday night, Google lawyer Peter Fleischer posted instructions on the official Google blog about how to hide your Wi-Fi access point so it can’t be used by Google’s location based services, such as Google Maps.All you have to do is “visit your access point’s settings and change the wireless network name (or SSID) so it ends in nomap.”
That period at the end is apparently necessary.
The post makes it sound trivial, but the instructions to actually DO this are complicated and vary by router — step one is usually to connect your wireless access point to your computer with an Ethernet cable. And changing your network name means you’ll have to retrain all your devices to look for the new network.
Almost nobody will bother. So Google can appear to be concerned about user privacy while in fact putting the burden on users to change.
MG Siegler called it “a joke” and said that people would be more likely to solve calculus problems. He also noted that Google wouldn’t have had to write this post at all if they hadn’t been collecting private data travelling over the Wi-Fi networks when they were collecting Wi-Fi location data. (Google maintains it was an accident.) That’s what angered European regulators, and probably led to this response.
It should be noted that Google isn’t the only company that collects and uses Wi-Fi information like this — so does Apple, Skyhook, and other companies.
But Google’s lame “solution” is unique. Sometimes, a fig leaf is so small it reveals more than it hides.