I noted last week that Germany is doing more than just investigating Google’s wi-spy privacy breaches; their state governments are actually promoting alternative technologies and systems to undermine Google’s anti-privacy model of controlling private data.
The Bavarian state government is now promoting (see German story and translation) a location-based service, endorsed by privacy advocates, as a direct alternative to the location-based services that Google’s Street View vehicles were designed to support. They are promoting a technology to help users track their location using wi-fi positioning like Google, but with some key differences:
- No personal data will be collected. Instead, vehicles with GPS on board with collect only MAC addresses (i.e. no SSID or payload data).
- Databases will be compiled and downloaded directly to individual cell phones, meaning no company like Google will not get to track your location every time you check your location — a big plus from a privacy perspective.
The consortium developing the technology, called awiloc WLAN localization technology, which is supported by the research company, Fraunhofer IIS (developer of the MP3 and MPEG AAC audio coding procedures), is starting with larger German cities. Databases for Nuremberg, Berlin, Hamburg and Munich will be available soon.
Along with being supported by government privacy authorities, the consortium includes IT2media, Germany’s leading provider and operator of indexing solutions; init, the leading supplier of telematics and electronic payment systems for buses and rail; Map and Route, supplier of maps and route services; and art2guide, a supplier of audiovisual command systems.
If this model takes off in Germany and spreads to other countries, it could be a major challenge to Google controlling location-based searching if users adopt a common location-based service technology. Location searching will evolve into more of a public utility shared by users and companies than the individual profit center Google wants it to be.