Quite a few people have by now read about AOL’s new Skyhook “Near Me” buddy plugin. That’s the plug-in for the service which lets you know if any of your buddies are geographically near to you, and puts them in a “Near Me” buddies group.
But what far fewer people realize is exactly how it works. How does it know when you are geographically near one of your buddies?
The answer may surprise – and concern – you.
The underlying technology is provided by Skyhook Wireless. According to news sources, Skyhook has spent the past several years “driving a fleet of 200 trucks up and down the streets of 2,500 cities and towns across the United States and Canada,” mapping every single wireless router. Not just commercial hotspot routers. They openly admit that their trucks “scan for the pulse given off at least once a second by every home wireless router or commercial hotspot, recording the unique identifying code for that piece of Wi-Fi equipment.”
Then, that code – of your home wireless router – “is correlated with the exact physical location where it was captured using GPS in the trucks, which cruise the streets at 15 to 50 miles (24 to 80 kilometers) per hour as they collect this information.”
Just in case the picture isn’t clear, let me paint it for you:
Skyhook’s trucks have been cruising your street, have identified your home wireless router by its unique code that only your home wifi has – and is correlating it with your location using GPS.
And then they put it in a databse
Yep, Skyhook has what has got to be the largest database of wifi access points – public and private – anywhere. According to reports, the database has 16 million wifi access points “covering an area where Skyhook says 70 percent of the U.S. population lives and six Canadian markets where the majority of that nation’s people live.” Including you.
Including your wireless router.
At your home address.
How do you feel about that?
Oh, and the purpose of this database? Why, to make it available for commercial applications, of course.
Suddenly the issue of whether your computer is seeping data seems a lot more relevant, doesn’t it?