Feeds

I'm lost without Google Wi-Fi snoop

Don't touch that router

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

Andrew's Mailbag Is it the sudden outbreak of sunshine? Is it write something silly to Andrew week?

A reader we shall call John sends me this:

I just tried the new me.com Find my iPhone app. I live in a rural setting and own a 3GS which had WiFi turned off (to save the battery up the wirelessless pub last night). The app was out by approximately 3km when using GPS and the (very distant) telephone mast, and the confidence range (the big blue circle) was hopelessly optimistic.

But the app also offered to find my wifi-only iPad, which surprised me. I checked that and it was accurate to within 10 metres.

This seems to show that Google's mapping of the wifi world is crucially important and we stand to lose a lot if it's lost in the brouhaha about nicking payload as well as the publicly broadcast MAC address. Of course they shouldn't have hoovered up that stuff, but I haven't seen a convincing account of the practical use to which Google could have put it even if they wanted to be really evil...

The other thing that occurred to me was that my upgrading my Airport machine would make a small black hole in Google's map of the world...

One immediate wrinkle in John's argument occurs to me. In urban areas the cellular network already locates you to within a few hundred yards rural areas, so the Wi-Fi snoop can't be justified there. But in the countryside, there's a tiny Wi-Fi footprint amidst vast spaces where there's no signal at all*, so it's still useless as a location aid. Unless you happen to be within range, such as… at home.

So the only use case I see is if you happen to black out, and can't remember where you are, then you can just turn on your iPad and thanks to Google, it'll be able to tell you.

That's why you need Google's Wi-Fi snoop. It's saving us from ourselves.

Comments welcome. ®

*Yes, I know that with a directional antenna, you can snoop all the WiFi you want for miles around - but here I'm talking about regular equipment (laptops, phones).

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
Thirteen Astonishing True Facts You Never Knew About SCREWS
Threaderick the Great! And YES, we asked the Arapaho
NSA man: 'Tell me about your Turkish connections'
Spooks ask Dabbsy to suggest a nice hotel with pool
Russia sends SEX-CRAZED GECKOS to SPAAAAACE!
In space... no one can hear you're green...
Indian techies-in-training face down MAN-EATING LEOPARD - and WIN
Big cat causes big trouble at Mumbai college
Too rich for an iPhone 6? How about a gold-plated Brikk?
Not lobbed at your head, silly – a bling phone
Carlos: Slim your working week to just three days of toil
'Midas World' vision suggests you retire later, watch more tellie and buy more stuff
Yahoo! Japan! launches! service! for! the! dead!
If you're reading this email, I am no longer alive
Plucky Rockall podule man back on (proper) dry land
Bold, barmy Brit adventurer Nick Hancock escapes North Atlantic islet
Motorist 'thought car had caught fire' as Adele track came on stereo
'FIRE' caption on dashboard prompts dunderheaded hard shoulder halt
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Backing up Big Data
Solving backup challenges and “protect everything from everywhere,” as we move into the era of big data management and the adoption of BYOD.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.