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Google has created a virtual GPS on YOUR laptop/desktop computer/cellphone. Really!

User ID: 956815
United States
05/29/2010 11:10 AM
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Google has created a virtual GPS on YOUR laptop/desktop computer/cellphone. Really!
[link to theamericandictator.com]

Google has created a virtual GPS on YOUR laptop/desktop computer/cellphone. Really!

Google wants to know where you live. Where you work. Where you travel. Exactly. Down to the latitude and longitude. Down to the square foot, such as

(Google Headquarters if you really want to know)

And not only has google figured out how to do it, without you "telling them", they have already implemented the solution, rolled it out, and could be/ are tracking your every movement!

Many of us, I am sure, have loaded the google toolbar, because it's just so danged handy. Lately, I've been getting pop-ups from the toolbar from Google, asking for permission to let google know your location. For reasons from a programing point of view, I've always said no, because once google "knows" your location, it attempts to serve up answers to your google queries based upon your location.

For your benefit

Google already attempts to geolocate you through various means, IE past search queries, your incoming IP address, etc. and serves up results based upon those. Type in car dealers in your google search, and instead of car dealers across the US popping up, google will pop up local dealers with a convenient map of the nearest ones.

However, getting "close" for Google wasn't good enough. Google wants to know, exactly, where you are. Every time you log in. GPS without the GPS.

Think about that for a bit, boys and girls. Think about the ramifications. The law enforcement capabilities. The geolocating capabilities. And all without add on hardware dedicated to GPS. And Google has done it.

Do no evil is supposed to be Google's mantra. Sure, I believe them. However, nothing says that Google's technology will be abused by others, say a rogue government.

Google's virtual GPS system

We've seen in the news the concern and sometimes outrage in Europe about Google'ss Streetview camera cars and their oopsie disclosure that they were sniffing and saving packets from WiFi sources as they drove by. Google claimed it was an error that they were saving actual traffic, but the real meat of the story was glossed over as a side effect. The real story wasn't about privacy of your external communications and unencrypted vs encrypted communications..... The real story was much more than that. It was about collecting SSIDs and mac addresses and ....

Let's figure out what Google's Street View cars data collection is and could be.

•GPS co-ordinates of the vehicle as it drives by. Makes sense, the images the car takes need to be matched to where the car was
•Images - Goes without saying the car is collecting a 360 view of it's surroundings as it drives by
•WiFi hotspots - Hmmm, now why would Google be collecting that info? Maybe for some future google ap showing the location of wifi or something else? And just exactly what info is google collecting about the wifi, exactly?

As it turns out, Google isn't just collecting Wifi hotspot availability, as some speculate. Google is logging everything it can about the wifi hotspot. The ID (SSID)of the spot, the signal strength, the mac address, and as we now know, the status of the spot if it is open or secured. And regardless of the security, it is saving, at least up till now, samples of data that were being transmitted over the air.

So how can Google create a virtual GPS out of this information on YOU? Well as the vehicle drives by, measuring the wifi hotspots with their signal strengths recorded, Google can create a geolocation map of just where in the house your wifi transmitter is sitting. It also creates a signal strength map of that transmitter as it approaches your home and drives away. It would therefore be a trivial exercise in computing algorithms to create a map specific wifi address vs signal strength, and with multiple wifi locations (you, and your neighbors houses wifi scattered around you) google has now a very complex map of the wifi environment in which you live and work.

Which comes to the client side of the problem Now that google has a static picture of the wifi around your neighborhood, how can it figure out where you are sitting, within feet or inches?

Your Wifi enabled device

Your wifi enabled device (laptop, cell phone, and now many desktops come standard with it) are constantly sniffing out the available wifi hotspots around you. Go and click on the configure wifi settings of your computer or phone right now, and you will see just how many are around you. Sitting here in my residential neighborhood, sipping my morning coffee, I see 6 different wifi signals, their names and identifiers, with their accompanying signal strengths.

When you allow google to "know your location", what you are really agreeing to is to send to google's computers your wifi environment. Not only the name of the wifi hotspot you are logged into, but something much, much more. The names and signal strengths of every wifi hotspot around you.

You know, the same things that those cool google streetview cars were sucking up as they drove by your house.

You do not even have to be using wifi to access the internet to be tracked. You could be hardwired into your home routers using a cable, and yet, if your computer is wifi enabled, it will still send to google all of the names and signal strengths of every wifi location it finds.

A simple algorithm is all it takes to triangulate the hotspots, and their signal strengths to identify EXACTLY where you are.

Now this isn't exactly new. Police have long been able to get an approximate location on you by triangulating your phones signal strength reception vs cell towers (not only are cell towers storing your signal strength info as you walk/drive around, you are proactively sending back to them their signal strength info too). But cell towers are widely spread, and the triangulation isn't as precise, and you may not be electromagnetically visible to more than 3 three towers at the same time.

So now, most cell phones being sold on the market have wifi capability built in. And there are billions of hotspots out there.

Don't take my word for it, here it is from Google.

[link to www.google.com]

Can't escape, can't opt out

Nope, we already know law enforcement can now turn on your phone without your permission. It is trivial to extrapolate that they can now turn on your wifi enabled device without your permission too. If you have a wifi device, aren't in the middle of the desert, odds are you can be found. I'll let the reader think about the implications of that.
Anonymous Coward
User ID: 985566
United States
05/29/2010 11:11 AM
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Re: Google has created a virtual GPS on YOUR laptop/desktop computer/cellphone. Really!
you don't say?....
Anonymous Coward (OP)
User ID: 956815
United States
05/29/2010 11:18 AM
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Re: Google has created a virtual GPS on YOUR laptop/desktop computer/cellphone. Really!
From google's link.....

Master advanced features: My LocationShare
Gmail Blogger Buzz Orkut Google Reader Google Bookmarks » More
Comment Print My Location provides more accurate local search results on Google when information is available. It also offers the W3C Geolocation API to third party websites with your permission.

Tip: Visit Google Maps and click the My Location button above the zoom slider. Click Share my location if you give your permission for Google Maps to use your location, and the map should center on your approximate location, if available.

Enable or disable My Location
My Location is off by default. Once you elect to share your location with Google or a third party website, the My Location icon appears on your Toolbar to indicate that My Location is active (active means that Toolbar is keeping your location up to date in the background). You can click this icon at any time to turn off My Location and stop sharing location with websites. Click the icon to re-enable it.

1.Click the Toolbar's wrench icon.
2.On the Tools tab, select (or deselect) the 'My Location' checkbox.
3.Click Save.
Note: When My Location is enabled, you may see prompts asking you to share your location with specific websites. To stop these requests from appearing, click the 'Remember this site' checkbox before clicking Share my location.

We use information transmitted by nearby WiFi access points to determine your approximate location. Accuracy and coverage will vary by location, and we're working to improve both over time.

When My Location is active, Toolbar will automatically send local network information (including, but not limited to, visible WiFi access points) to Google Location Services in order to determine your location. This information is not tied to your Google Account, and you can disable the My Location feature at any time by clicking the My Location icon. Alternatively, you can disable the feature for a specific site:

1.Click the Toolbar's wrench icon.
2.On the Tools tab, click the Edit link next to the 'My Location' checkbox.
3.Select the site you'd like to remove from the list.
4.Click Remove site.
Toolbar does save your last location in the browser's memory so that websites can easily retrieve it. This information is periodically updated; the frequency of updates depends on changes to your location network information
Anonymous Coward (OP)
User ID: 956815
United States
05/29/2010 01:53 PM
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Re: Google has created a virtual GPS on YOUR laptop/desktop computer/cellphone. Really!

This is much more serious than sniffing encrypted packets folks.....

Forget the fact that google can now triangulate where you are within feet or maybe inches.

So can anyone else.

[link to dev.w3.org]

The geolocation device is the wifi chip itself. You don't have to be connected wirelessly.

All you have to have is the notebook with a battery in it.

They can turn on the rest for you.