[clug] Free WiFi Geolocation data (was GPS, GIS, GTS, SDI and FOSS)

Scott Ferguson scott.ferguson.clug at gmail.com
Wed Mar 2 22:08:23 MST 2011

On Thu, 03 Mar 2011 10:49:09 +1100 Robert Edwards wrote:
> Speaking of GPS/GIS/GTS/SDI and FOSS, I was involved in an interesting
> discussion with some (nameless) dudes after CLUG last week at which we
> were discussing the WiFi GeoLocation technology used by Android devices.
> Seems it is now becoming a standardised part of the (one day to be 
> announced) HTML 5
> Specification (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W3C_Geolocation_API)

No ffflash *and* geolocation data? Bring on HTML5 now :-D

> The way Google/Android do it is by detecting the MAC addresses of each
> WiFi access point detected and mapping them into their GIS. Then, when
> you want to use various GeoLocation apps on your device, it simply
> reports to the servers the MAC addresses of all the WiFi A/Ps it can
> see and the servers return a position (to some degree of accuracy).

I do recall their purchase a couple of years back of a West coast (USA)
company for software that did just that. Been wondering when we'd see
it. I expect eventually it'll be used so that your local pizza shop's ad
will show up in search results when you search for "local pizza" - at
the risk of sounding like a fanboi I expect that will/would be a big
boost to small businesses.

> After some thinking, I have come to the conclusion that I have no
> particular problem with people/organisations having this data - it is,
> after all, visible to anyone who cares to look.
> My main concern is the real-time accessing (or querying) of this data.
> The "when" and, by implication of the search, the "where" of the
> querying, not to mention the IP address being used. And, if you have
> certain cookies in your web-browser, then the possibility/probability
> of further corelation of who you are, where you are and when you were
> there.
> So, I think that this WiFi GeoLocation data needs to be "opened" up,
> so that people can query it in real-time without divulging the above
> "meta-data" to any one mega multi-national organisation/government etc.

I suspect you can safely conclude *that* data is already being collected
- bring on the level playing field.

> Clearly there is no reason for Google to give out the data they have
> painstakingly collected, so I am interested in any local projects like
> OpenStreetMaps etc. that may be already looking to collect this data
> from members of the freedom-seeking public.

Some of the mesh projects?

> I've been looking (on Google..., as well as Yahoo, Whirlpool etc.) but
> haven't seen anything sufficiently open and local to participate in as
> yet.
> I am thinking of some sort of federated system, where I can participate
> in collecting data for my area and then share it "off-line" with others.
> I can download data that other people have collected "off-line" and
> then use it when and where I want to without anyone else collecting
> meta-data about my present location etc.
> Just some ideas. Interested in what others may have already come across.
> Bob Edwards.

How long before the ABS makes good use of that data? (no sarcasm intended)

I'm presuming that you've looked at http://www.ushahidi.com/ (I only
know about it because of what Antti and you posted).


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