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Google offers opt-out from Wi-Fi router location database

Never offered an opt-in, though

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Google has given the owners of Wi-Fi routers around the world the right to opt out of a registry that the search giant uses to locate mobile phone users.

Currently Google uses location data tied to the unique codes of residential Wi-Fi routers to help triangulate the location of mobile devices.

Google made the change voluntarily, but it's likely it was a pre-emptive move before the search giant was forced to do so by European courts. Google has been embroiled in a legal challenge to the practice from privacy regulators in Germany.

The privacy fight waged by the German government will have benefits globally as Google extends the opt-out offer to people around the world.

The main benefit to Google of tracking the location of phone owners is to allow the company to deliver location-specific adverts. Where Wi-Fi router information is not available, it may use the device's GPS or the signatures of cellphone towers to locate a device.

The opt-out system should be in place by this autumn. ®

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