Don’t Be Evil

Google got into trouble when they started covertly mapping people’s wireless networks with their street-view vehicles. Obviously, this raised a number of privacy issues.

Well, Google has an answer for that:

Basically, you can opt out of this “service” by renaming the SSID for your wireless network to include “_nomap” at the end.

Read that again. That’s their solution.

Are they serious? Never mind the fact that the vast majority of people aren’t going to know they need to do this, do they realize that most people aren’t even going to know what that means, let alone how to do it? (I’m guessing that yes, they do realize that. And that’s the point.)

Oh, sure, they have directions for doing this linked from that blog post. This is part of their directions:

  1. Establish a physical connection between your access point and your computer using an ethernet cable.
  2. Establish the default gateway of your connection:
    1. On Windows, type ‘ipconfig’ into the command prompt (accessed from the start menu).
    2. On Mac OS, type ‘ifconfig’ into the command prompt.
    3. On Linux, type ‘ifconfig’ into the command prompt.
  3. Once you have the default gateway (it will look like, type it into the address bar of your web browser, this will take you to the control panel for your access point.
  4. You may have to sign in to your access point’s control panel. If so, the appropriate username and password should have been included in the booklet included when you received the access point.

They’re joking right? They really expect the average user to be able to do this? They really expect that the average person is going know what they’re looking at when they run those commands? This is the output of running ifconfig on the computer I’m currently using:

lo0: flags=8049 mtu 16384
inet netmask 0xff000000
inet6 ::1 prefixlen 128
inet6 fe80::1%lo0 prefixlen 64 scopeid 0x1
gif0: flags=8010 mtu 1280
stf0: flags=0 mtu 1280
en0: flags=8863 mtu 1500
ether 10:9a:dd:ac:6e:a2
inet6 fe80::129a:ddff:feac:6ea2%en0 prefixlen 64 scopeid 0x5
inet netmask 0xffff0000 broadcast
media: autoselect
status: active
vboxnet0: flags=8842 mtu 1500
ether 0a:00:27:00:00:00
en1: flags=8863 mtu 1500
ether 00:0e:c6:88:42:a0
inet6 fe80::20e:c6ff:fe88:42a0%en1 prefixlen 64 scopeid 0x4
inet netmask 0xffff0000 broadcast
media: autoselect (100baseTX )
status: active

They really think the average person is going to understand that!? (Never mind the fact that it doesn’t even tell you the default gateway.)

That this “opt-out” procedure is their answer to people’s privacy concerns is a complete joke. They clearly don’t want people to be able to opt-out, or even know that they need to. This should be an “opt-in” service, plain and simple.

It seems everyday Google does something to make their “Don’t be evil” slogan more and more of a joke.


2 comments on “Don’t Be Evil

  1. I’m not that freaked out about this if only because it’s become par for the course. Apple’s doing something similar using anonymous data from iPhone users to associate wireless nets with GPS coordinates. It’s all in the service of making phone-based GPS faster by using information about cell towers and Wifi hotspots to help pinpoint locations.

  2. It’s not so much that they’re mapping wireless networks. I totally get the value in it. It’s that their opt-out solution is a complete joke, and that they clearly don’t intend most people to even know about or be capable of doing it.

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