Google to allow people to opt out of WiFi location services

Google's WiFi location services uses a person's wireless connection to help show where things like restaurants, gas stations and other businesses and activities are available near a person's origin point. But some online privacy advocates have expressed concerns in the past over how Google uses and stores such location data. This week, Google announced it is working on a way to let WiFi users opt out of being detected by Google's location services.

The announcement was made via Google's European policy blog site. The blog entry, written by the company's Global Privacy Counsel Peter Fleischer, says that the company, " ... uses publicly broadcast WiFi data from wireless access points to improve our location-based services. By using signals from access points, smart phones are able to fix their general location quickly without using too much power."

But such features have, as Fleischer admits in the blog, come under scrutiny by a number of European-based regulators. They have been looking into if Google's online location services violate the privacy laws of various countries in that part of the world. So Google has decided to give users the option to hide their WiFi connection from the company. Fleischer said, "Once opted out, our services will not use that access point to determine users’ locations. We’ll be making this opt-out available globally, and we’ll release more detailed information about it when it’s ready to launch later this autumn." He added, "Even though the wireless access point signals we use in our location services don’t identify people, we think we can go further in protecting people’s privacy."

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