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Discussion Starter #1
May be a bit of old news for some but...apparently, Google has been doing a little more than snapping photos for their Street View project...they've been doing some "wardriving" too. Not actually Google but a hired third party company called "Skyhook Wireless", collecting your wireless SSID and MAC address as they drive along mapping your home. Google has since admitted they did that in error, but I don't know...how does Google then know where I live? Chances are if you live in an area Google has photographed and have a wireless router, they know where you are too.

I've shut off SSID broadcasting on my router since the day I powered it on and my wireless traffic is encrypted. But they know where (abouts) I live. If I go to Google Movie Showtimes, it brings up the theaters closest to me and even puts in the neighborhood I live in as my location, as "Showtimes for...., ON". I really doubt their getting that kind of accuracy through I.P. address alone. I don't use any geo-location programs or have it enabled in my browser and everything in my browser clears out when I close it.

So does Google know where you live? Try the Showtimes link. Anyone else have any other links where Google may use your location?

Some other reading on the subject...
The Register
The Register
Location Tracking Video
 

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I've shut off SSID broadcasting on my router since the day I powered it on and my wireless traffic is encrypted.
Your SSID is still part of every packets broadcasted. You're not really shutting off anything. Anyone with the right equipment can still get your SSID.

So Google knows where I live... Then what? So does Amazon.com and any other online retailers I used (obviously to get stuff shipped to me). What is so scary?

By the way, ever considered that Google Movie Showtimes may be using your IP address to geo-locate you? It's not uncommon. The mapping app on my iPod Touch does the same too. And when I travel, the site also adapt depending on my hotel IP address. Not related to "wardriving" at all.

Ever heard of Skyhook? They keep a huge database of IP addresses and locations. Google (and many other companies) use them.
 

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It's close, just down the street where the location is posted. There's at least 20 wireless points in my area. A few open ones, too. :eek:
 

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So Google knows where I live... Then what? So does Amazon.com and any other online retailers I used (obviously to get stuff shipped to me). What is so scary?
Not scary...just interesting that you may not be as anonymous as you think.

By the way, ever considered that Google Movie Showtimes may be using your IP address to geo-locate you? It's not uncommon.
I just don't think pinpointing you with an IP would be that accurate. Sure, it would list you as from general area, like Toronto, but I doubt it would know what neighborhood you're in.

Ever heard of Skyhook? They keep a huge database of IP addresses and locations. Google (and many other companies) use them.
Yes, I pointed that out in the OP.
 

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I just don't think pinpointing you with an IP would be that accurate. Sure, it would list you as from general area, like Toronto, but I doubt it would know what neighborhood you're in.
Oh it can get close. On the map app of my iPod Touch, it's only incorrect by 2 houses.

Yes, I pointed that out in the OP.
Then aim your concerns at Skyhook, not Google. And don't mix the Wifi snooping in this. You're confusing two topics. Skyhook is used by many more other companies.
 

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I don't think it knows your location by IP alone when you're using your iPod touch. There's something more about your device and location beyond an IP address. I think it's been geo-located.
 

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It's just an iPod Touch. It has no GPS in it or anything special. I moved from Ontario to Alberta and as soon as I got my internet back up, it can find me on the map within 2-3 houses accuracy. It can only be doing this by IP since my SSID has not changed and I doubt they got a chance to rescan it in Alberta on the same day I got reconnected.

Even works when I travel (and I travel often).
 

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I've shut off SSID broadcasting on my router since the day I powered it on and my wireless traffic is encrypted. But they know where (abouts) I live.
Your SSID will not tell them where you live, as that's something you set and has no purpose other than identifying your WiFi network. Even if they know where that SSID is located, it is not transmitted over the internet in anything you do. You could watch all the traffic on your own local network, and you'd never see your SSID in it. They may, however, be able to make a very rough location determination using your IP address.
 

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The way Skyhook works is they've been building a database of SSIDs and their (rough) locations. Therefore, how they locate you often has nothing to do about your own SSID but rather the surrounding ones that you can "see". All WiFi devices can scan for surrounding networks so to locate you they just do a scan and check if any of the surrounding SSIDs are in their database.

Your IP address can rarely be used to locate you because it will simply be registered to your ISP. Your ISP can check their logs and correlate your IP address back to you but that's about it.
 

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Sleemo - who is your ISP? It's possible that some ISPs carve up their IP address blocks based on neighbourhood and this is how they can narrow it down. I'm with Primus and my "location" is always in the South Kingsway area of Toronto and I know for a fact that's where one of their main data centres is so it seems that with Primus at least they aren't able to glean anything from the IP address alone.
 

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ha... google thinks Im in Montreal Quebec...did not even get the province right. :)

Its IP based and at the moment my IP is based from a server in Quebec... its not a proxy.
 

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The way Skyhook works is they've been building a database of SSIDs and their (rough) locations.
How do either the WiFi MAC or SSID give them a location, when someone uses the internet? Sure, you can drive around and gather those and build a database, but there's no relation to anything else about the user. Your SSID info does not cross the internet. In fact, you don't see it anywhere outside of the WiFi link. The WiFi MAC is different from the WAN MAC, although it may be similar. Your WAN MAC address does not get past the first router it hits, unless it's used to form part of the host name. Even then, they wouldn't likely have the host name, unless they did a host look up of the IP address.
 

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If you have a cable internet, they can usually pinpoint your neighbourhood based on IP because certain blocks are assigned to certain phubs which serve specific neighbourhoods.
With DSL, on the other hand, any user can have any IP in the pool. So the 'location' is usually just the headend/data centre, as mentioned for Primus.

SSID data was taken to get a location fix for devices without GPS.
e.g. your ipod touch has wifi, but no gps.
Using the available SSID's to the device, google maps can triangulate an approximate location based on the known locations of those SSID's.

It's quite handy in that sense, but I don't believe it can be used within a browser (has no access to the network adapter's information, and if you're not on a laptop/wireless enabled desktop it's not doing much :p)
 

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1) I don't know what the big deal is here. It's really not too hard for anyone to find out where most other people live.... using an old technology called "a phone book".

2) I find this SSID location tracking extremely handy. I use it all the time with Google Maps on my Android phone when traveling. It usually pinpoints me down extremely accurately within seconds and saves me the time or battery power of using the phone's GPS. So I'm all for this!
 

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Most mobile devices include two forms of GPS, the first is the conventional one that uses GPS satellites while the second locates you based on checking the signal strength of the wifi networks that are around you. Your device firmware has this functionality built-in and sends information about networks around you to Skyhook servers which compare that to their database and determine your location. Skyhook does not use the SSID since that is often changed, instead they use the MAC address of the router which while also changeable is less likely to be touched by a user.

Thus when those cars go driving by all they are doing is collecting the SSID, Mac address and signal strength needed to populate the database used to determine your position. No personally identifiable information is collected AFAIK. An excellent overview of Skyhook can be found on wikipedia at:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skyhook_Wireless

BTW this technology is extremely useful since in many instances conventional GPS cannot work, for example in buildings or underground.
 

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I think Shaw carves up neighborhoods too; that's mine.

Yeah I tried it and it got almost my exact location! (the link 'Movie Showtimes')
It didn't even hesitate.
 

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If I go to Google Movie Showtimes, it brings up the theaters closest to me and even puts in the neighborhood I live in as my location, as "Showtimes for...., ON". I really doubt their getting that kind of accuracy through I.P. address alone. I don't use any geo-location programs or have it enabled in my browser and everything in my browser clears out when I close it.
I use DSL and tried this. The location shows Winnipeg, MB and the theatres are centered around downtown Winnipeg, which also happens to be where my ISP is located, but not close to where I am.

When you say that it puts your neighborhood in the location, IP addresses do show Scarborough as a location. If your neighborhood is more precise than that, you may have a valid concern.
 

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I just tried it as well. I was quite surprised that it got the theaters near my work (my PC is not on wireless), as our external servers are all out of the country.
 

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I tried the movie link and the first cinema was 6 km away, the second and third ones a bit closer, the 4th one was 7 km away. I had to go down 5 cinemas to get to the closest one to me. The list was also for "North York" instead of Toronto where I live.
 
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