Firefox users gain location tool

Mozilla, the company behind the Firefox browser, has released technology that helps websites detect the physical location of computers.

The system will allow users, for instance, to find local restaurants when they travel to a new town.

The Geode project is an experimental add-on ahead of a full blown launch of geolocation technology in version 3.1 of Firefox.

Users will have control over how much location information they give.

It uses technology from a firm called Skyhook which works out a computer's location from nearby wireless networks.

Its so-called Loki system can determine location within seconds with an accuracy of about 10 to 20 metres.

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25 Comments

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It reminds me of OnStar a little. Thing is - just like OnStar, it can be used against you! If someone wants to track you all they have to do is activate OnStar in your car. How do you think they can unlock your vehicle when you lock the keys inside? Scary, very scary if you ask me. Too much technology in the wrong hands.........

I first loaded it up, and it put me at a dot a few streets a way from me. So I thought hmm, that wasn't very impressive. But just as I went to close the page, it updated, and put my location almost exactly where I am. Creepy *xfiles music*

You could come up with the argument that "mobile phone companies constantly track and record your location, therefore what's the harm in this?"

Mobile phones do track your location and mobile phone companies do have a record of your movements, but this information is the subject to strict privacy laws and regulations. I would be interested in what the regulations are concerning geographical information passed over the internet?

If I operate a web site and someone sends this information to me, do I own that information and can do what I wish with it? Or am I to destroy that information and never view or use it?

My guess is that the information will not be subject to any privacy regulations and we'll be depending on the integrity of the web site operator therefore I'll certainly be disabling this feature 99% of the time.

maps.live.com already has a such a plug-in which allow your laptop or cell to use wifi signal for local detection.
In fact the plug-in has been available for over 3 years now.
The plug-in is limited to maps.live.com only though.

I feel more secure with using my device with an attached GPS and a software like Microsoft Streets and Maps.
It has more than adequate local specific information and accurate and doesn't disclose my location to any websites.

BTW, here is the plugin I was talking about: http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details...&displaylang=en
See also the privacy information about this tool : http://blogs.msdn.com/livesearch/archive/2.../13/503346.aspx

(Express said @ #6)
maps.live.com already has a such a plug-in which allow your laptop or cell to use wifi signal for local detection.
In fact the plug-in has been available for over 3 years now.
The plug-in is limited to maps.live.com only though.

BTW, here is the plugin I was talking about: http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details...;displaylang=en
See also the privacy information about this tool : http://blogs.msdn.com/livesearch/archive/2.../13/503346.aspx

I new I had used this kinda feature before...

thanks for the relink ; )

Is this going to be a default feature? I hope not... One of the things that made Firefox so popular in its infancy was the way it was so lightweight, and acted as a simple core browser which you could beef up how you wanted through extensions. Now they want to put this feature in which only a very small minority of users will get use out of every day.

100% agreed with you. I think it has basically kept with its original goals. The only complaint I have about v3 (so far) is that the fancy bookmarks and RSS features should all be extensions IMHO.

Everything is a double edge sword. This could be good and bad for people. But don't they already have something like this? When you visit some dodgy web sites, it says your city name on meet local singles

(PureLegend said @ #3.1)
Mine are always wrong. I don't understand how it can work out location through local WiFi o_O

"Using the MAC addresses of nearby wireless access points and proprietary algorithms, WPS can determine the position of a mobile device within 20-30 meters. It provides service similar to GPS without GPS hardware and can also integrate with GPS-enabled devices to provide hybrid positioning. With sub-second time-to-first-fix, 20-30 meter accuracy and near 100% availability indoors and in dense urban areas, it is very complementary to GPS.

Skyhook's database includes more than 50 million wi-fi access points and covers 70 percent of population centers in the United States and Canada.[1]"

Source Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skyhook_Wireless

Their proprietary algorithms probably use some sort of triangulation by measuring the response times between Wi-Fi access points which is a lot more precise then between cell towers for GPS systems.... Then again I could be full of baloney and am just watching too much Jack Bauer.

(PureLegend said @ #3.1)
Mine are always wrong.

So are mine, purely because the "address" registered with the IP range for my ISP is Bracknell, which is nowhere near me.

And why would I think that Bracknell has better talent than my home town which at least is a tourist resort? :P

(Tikitiki said @ #3.3)
Their proprietary algorithms probably use some sort of triangulation by measuring the response times between Wi-Fi access points which is a lot more precise then between cell towers for GPS systems.... Then again I could be full of baloney and am just watching too much Jack Bauer.

Regular GPS systems don't use cell towers for anything. A-GPS devices such as newer mobile phones can use their data connection to "assist" the GPS (hence the name), maybe that is what you were referring to?
Or maybe you were thinking of old-school GSM navigation which can be VERY inaccurate to say the least.

(tareqsiraj said @ #1.1)
I think it will ask you before it sends out the info (the screenshot on geode's website looks like it does).

"Users will have control over how much location information they give."

Which probably means that you can say "I only want to allow up to my City and State" etc. Also, since it's an addon, users will probably be able to turn it off entirely. You can head over to mozilla and check out the discussions for more info

Don't give them permission to use the information then.

It's up to the user to provide the info to web pages, and it's up to the user to install this extension (And when 3.1 is finished, it'll be up to the user to connect a GPS device to their computer)