Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The urge to cleanse

This post builds on my other posts and explains the commercial reasons why access point location databases maintainers will be forced, by their own commercial interests, to start identifying mobile access points.

Providers of access point location databases have two motivations - to extend their coverage until it is complete and to ensure that their coverage maps are and remain accurate.

Initially, providers attained coverage by paying people to drive around in cars with WiFi and GPS gear attached. One way to maintain the maps is to repeat the journeys with new drivers (or old drivers who don't bore easily).Another way would be to make use of the millions of GPS and WiFi capable receuvers in the hands of people that are using their location based service APIs.

New WiFi access points can be added using location information from the consumer's device (eithe GPS, or other WiFi location fixes). Existing WiFi access points that give unstable location data can be removed from the database. All of this will happen auto-nomically, indeed, perhaps what Skyhook Wireless refers to as "Automated Self-Healing Network".

So, the drive to improve coverage could lead to mobile wifi access points being included in the database. The drive to improve accuracy of existing coverage could lead to "unstable" mobile access points being removed from the database.

In an ideal world, the access points with variable location functions would not be searchable. However, the information about the unstable (e.g. mobile) access points will have to be accumulated in order to preserve the integrity of the static parts of the mobile access point database.

The question is: what forces prevent the collected information being exploited? Are existing privacy laws sufficient and what evidence is there that they are?


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