How to Opt Out of Google's Wi-Fi Network Mapping

On Monday, Google said that wireless access point and router owners can now option out of having their wireless network included in the Google Location Server. All they need to do is change the wireless network name (or SSID) so that it ends with "_nomap." That means if you're one of the millions who use "linksys" as a network name, it will now need to read "linksys_nomap" to avoid Google's Wi-Fi network mapping.

"As we explored different approaches for opting-out access points from the Google Location Server, we found that a method based on wireless network names provides the right balance of simplicity as well as protection against abuse," said Peter Fleischer, Global Privacy Counsel for Google. "Specifically, this approach helps protect against others opting out your access point without your permission."

The solution might not be reasonable for everyone. Google is asking Wi-Fi network administrators, whether they're public networks or located in the home, to manually change their network's SSID name. The task of actually renaming the SSID isn't a big deal for experienced users, and re-connecting Wi-Fi devices to the re-named network may take a few annoying minutes. But what about those who simply hook up their router and move on to other things? Or those who really have no knowledge of setting the proper security or changing the SSID? Some users don't even broadcast an SSID on purpose.

Thus, the idea of asking everyone to change their network's ID on behalf of Google is simply preposterous, outlandish. "99-percent of the people who will want to do this will have absolutely no idea what [changing the SSID] means," rants MG Siegler. "I mean, [Google's] entire post is a joke, right? Please tell me this is a joke."

Yet it's no joke, and Google is hoping that the "_nomap" tag will be adopted by all location providers, not just Google. "Because other location providers will also be able to observe these opt-outs, we hope that over time the '_nomap' string will be adopted universally," Fleischer said. "This would help benefit all users by providing everyone with a unified opt-out process regardless of location provider."

Google came under fire when it was recently discovered that Google's Street View cars were not only taking photos of neighborhoods, but "mistakenly" collecting street addresses, Wi-Fi router SSIDs, MAC addresses, unencrypted passwords and even email addresses. Google quickly halted the collection of personal data, but continued to pick up the unique MACs, SSIDs and physical addresses of Wi-Fi access points and routers.

But now owners of access points and Wi-Fi routers can remove their devices from Google's Location Server using the "_nomap" SSID tag. Once that's changed, the next time a Wi-Fi enabled device like an Android smartphone or tablet tries to use the network to fix its location, Google's Location Server will take note of the SSID and remove its information... so Google claims.

Changing the SSID is rather simple: just hook up to the network via an Ethernet connection and log onto the router or access point (typically 192.168.1.1 or something similar) via a browser. The wireless network name (SSID) is typically changed under the Wireless section. Just add "_nomap" and hit apply, and the device will reboot using the new name. Now you just need to reconnect your wireless devices to the "New" Wi-Fi network (and delete the old one to avoid confusion).

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  • Ragnar-Kon
    Good idea, but if a user has the SSID "linksys," what makes Google think the user has the know-how to be able to change it to "linksys_nomap"?

    IMO, a better option would be to allow users to opt-in. "linksys_mapme" or something.
    26
  • king smp
    Oh cmon
    I have a Wii,PSP 3000,laptop,two desktops and family who all have my SSID set
    Now because of Google I have to go thru the trouble of changing my SSID!!! WTF
    this isnt a five minute thing to do
    this is work
    and I shouldnt have to do it
    how about yes_map if you want to be on the Google wifi map
    make it so if you want this done then you do the change
    if you dont want this done then you do nothing

    this is the whole reason I removed Google Earth and Google Chrome
    they are annoying and intrusive with all their background services
    even now I still have a Google update service run on my main Win7 rig
    that even using msconfig and manage-services I can f-ing get rid of!

    this is ridiculous
    why should I have to take time to opt out of something
    it should be if you want to opt in you have to do something

    Google is lame
    22
  • Anonymous
    i would have thought an opt in would have been a better idea, _mapme makes alot more sense, generally speaking google is providing exposure for these wifi hotspots, so chances are these folks would actively want to be mapped, plus they will have the technical expertise on hand to handle such task
    16
  • Other Comments
  • wintermint
    I'm sure Google is hoping that the average computer user (novice) doesn't know anything about this and/or doesn't add "_nomap" to their SSID. They've really become intrusive regarding information.
    10
  • Ragnar-Kon
    Good idea, but if a user has the SSID "linksys," what makes Google think the user has the know-how to be able to change it to "linksys_nomap"?

    IMO, a better option would be to allow users to opt-in. "linksys_mapme" or something.
    26
  • de5_Roy
    why the !@#$ would the users be the ones to opt out? can't google stop itself from invading privacy or spy map people's wifi networks?
    oh wait, google is the giant corporation that mines loads of data and stores them for personal gain. users are once again the losers.
    the government should step in and make google to comply with privacy laws like germany and other countries did (afaik).
    6