Wednesday, September 08, 2010

After Google Incident, Wi-Fi Data Collection Goes on

Robert McMillan writes on PC World:

Four months ago, amidst a backlash from government regulators and privacy advocates, Google stopped collecting Wi-Fi data with its Street View cars.But that doesn't mean Google has stopped collecting wireless data altogether, and neither have other companies such as Apple.

Instead of sending out cars to sniff out wireless networks, Google is now crowdsourcing the operation, with users of its Android phones and location-aware mobile applications doing the reconnaissance work for it. In the past few months, Apple has quietly started building a similar database, leveraging its large base of users to log basic Wi-Fi data. There are others: A Boston company, Skyhook Wireless, has been logging wireless access points for years, as has its competitor, Navizon of Miami Beach, Florida.

It's a trend that's been spurred by the intense interest in applications such as FourSquare and Facebook Places. As it becomes increasingly important for programs that run on your phone to know exactly where you are -- to be location-aware in industry parlance -- having a way of figuring out exactly where you are becomes critical. But the companies collecting this data haven't come under much scrutiny, many users do not understand how the data is being collected or why, and security experts are just now starting to discover some of the ways that this information could be misused.

More here.


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