Either you find it helpful or you find it unsettling that Google seems to sense wherever you are when you use its search. For example, when you type "restaurants" -- no city associated with it -- into the search bar, it comes up with a map of restaurants right around the location surrounding where you're currently sitting.
Google has now given people the option to opt out of using the Google Location Server, even though it was anonymous, in an effort to improve privacy and user control. This opt out comes after European data protection officials called for Google to create the option earlier this fall.
Here's what Google's blog had to say:
From tagging a post with your location, to checking in to a restaurant, to simply finding out where you are, location-based services have become some of the most popular features of today’s Internet. One of the key ways technology companies are able to determine a location for these services is through a location database, which matches publicly broadcast information about local wireless networks with their approximate geographic location. By looking for wireless access points that are close to a user’s phone, location providers can return the approximate location you need. In addition, this method is a good alternative to other approaches, like GPS, because it’s faster, it works indoors, and it’s more battery-efficient.
The wireless access point information we use in our location database, the Google Location Server, doesn’t identify people. But as first mentioned in September, we can do more to address privacy concerns.
We’re introducing a method that lets you opt out of having your wireless access point included in the Google Location Server. To opt out, visit your access point’s settings and change the wireless network name (or SSID) so that it ends with “_nomap.” For example, if your SSID is“Network,” you‘d need to change it to “Network_nomap.”
At some point, Google hopes that other location service providers, who will be able to observe those opting out of Google's service, will adopt the "_nomap" system for their users so there is a "unified opt-out process regardless of location provider."
Here is more information on Google's location-based services.