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Privacy Wireless Networking Hardware Your Rights Online

Residential Wi-Fi Mapping Database Revealed 167

Posted by kdawson
from the X-ICBM dept.
Talaria writes "An enormous database of home wifi routers and their locations has been revealed after the Internet Patrol did some digging following AOL's recent announcement of their new "Near Me" service, which allows AIM users to see which of their instant messenger buddies are geographically near them. The database, containing the unique IDs of more than 16 million wireless routers and their locations, has been compiled by AOL partner Skyhook Wireless, which claims to have mapped the majority of residences in the U.S. and Canada."
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Residential Wi-Fi Mapping Database Revealed

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  • by shalunov (149369) on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @03:10PM (#18420069) Homepage
    A truck records signal from your WiFi router? How about people taking a picture of your house to sell to banks and insurance companies [azstarnet.com]? Or aerial close-ups of your backyard [outer-court.com]?
  • mod parent up (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @03:28PM (#18420377)
    I honestly don't understand all the hype regarding wireless. Sure, it's convenient for laptops in an airport, cafe, or other public location, but to me it just doesn't make sense for most residences. I think it's main selling point is the fact that people don't have to run wires and people are generally cheap and lazy. But I wired my house myself (16 outlets over 6 rooms) for about $300 in equipment (router, patch panel, 1000' cable, tools, etc) and two days of my time. The setup is fantastic and I don't have to worry about some random jackass piggy-backing my connection. Even if you have a couple of laptops in your house it wouldn't be a problem if you planned an appropriate wiring scheme. Of course if you want to roam around your house and in your yard with your laptop wireless is really the only option, but in my estimation the vast majority of residences consist of exclusively non-portable desktop machines. In that regard wireless is used simply because it is easy and cheap.

    Little girls go wiresless; real men run wires.
  • WiFi Mapping (Score:5, Interesting)

    by drewzhrodague (606182) <drew@@@zhrodague...net> on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @03:34PM (#18420509) Homepage Journal
    I am not surprised by this. In fact, having been the guy that started WiFiMaps.com [wifimaps.com] (In '02), I've been talking about this to others for quite a while now. Positioning yourself using wifi is probably the most useful application for wardriving data. Does it need to be accurate? No, not really. I've talked to scientists working on sub-meter acuracy, and it is very difficult. If you can find out on which part of which block, there are tons and tons and tons of location applets you can think of off the top of your head to make use of that. If there are people interested in a copy of our national (and some other countries) database of wifi locations, ours is GPL'd. What we don't have, is an all-in-one IM applet, which I guess Skyhook and AOL are now trying. Kudos. I sure wish I had some business skills. That can be the difference between the company's product as a topic on slashdot, and a dude at home posting on slashdot with no pants on.
  • by hjf (703092) on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @04:10PM (#18421167) Homepage
    no. you're just wrong. I can see that you have never used wireless. My cousin lives in a regular latin american house. That is, brick and mortar. No drywall. There's no more than 30 feet to the access point, yet she has trouble to get signal. Sure, it's 2 walls away. But it's supposed to be convenient . It just doesn't work. And no, it's no crappy gear. It's a 200mW AP and a Centrino laptop (awhich are supposed to be the best wireless cards around). The other day I wasn't getting ANY signal, on the spot where she uses it all the time. Guess what I found? There was a BOTTLE OF WATER 2 feet away from the computer. I moved that bottle and it worked. That means wireless is NOT practical. No. It's not practical to need to install high gain antennas and range extenders everywhere. They are pretty expensive, too (remember: we are in the third world). And you need outlets all over the place. And don't get me started on how wireles works in my house (a two story house, all brick).
  • by fyrewulff (702920) on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @05:14PM (#18422101)
    Almost every house in Omaha is already photographed and can be pulled up from the Douglas County Assessor's website. If also available, you can get the floorplan for the house, see it's last appraised worth, etc.

    The photographs are always taken from the street and you never see people in them. The only name attached to the files are the owners of the property. Heck, my mom's house is 75% covered by the tree in front of it - even though they took the picture at an angle.

    When I worked at the library, we used this site to look up people that did not have a ID with an address inside the county but owned property inside the county, which qualified them for a free library card.
  • by The Darkness (33231) on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @08:15PM (#18423773) Homepage
    Installing 25km outdoor wifi links is a different beast from getting wireless working in a home. I've helped set up many in home wireless networks and even helped debug situations like yours. It's not just the AP; the quality of the antenna on the mobile device can have a large effect on the distance it can roam.

    You know that the marketing people are going to take numbers from a "straight through the air-gap drywall" test where the line from the AP to the Wireless card is perpendicular to the line of the wall. Realistically speaking when those lines aren't perpendicular the signal has to travel through more material than just the thickness of the wall. Add that to the material that composes the walls of your home and it's a recipe for failure in your house. That doesn't make it bad for everyone, just you in your situation.

    If you really want wireless then you're probably going to be better off with one or more APs per floor and then wiring them together. If you're against wiring them you could try using a mesh if you can get line of sight between a couple of them. I'd want at least two access points in a 2000 sq ft house to ensure yard access. I'd probably want three or more in a 4000 sq ft home.

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