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Mozilla Is Mapping Cell Towers and WiFi Access Points

timothy posted about 3 months ago | from the where-you-are dept.

Mozilla 113

First time accepted submitter neiras writes "Mozilla is building a map of publicly-observable cell tower and WiFi access points to compete with proprietary geolocation services like Google's. Coverage is a bit thin so far but is improving rapidly. Anyone with an Android phone can help by downloading the MozStumbler app and letting it run while walking or driving around. The application is also available on the F-Droid market." "Thin" is relative; it's quite a few data points since we first mentioned the pilot program a few months ago.

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113 comments

Privacy (-1, Troll)

PaddyM (45763) | about 3 months ago | (#45993403)

What's the point of this? Didn't the FTC fine Google for this kind of activity? I completely understand the usefulness of this information, but I disagree with the collection methods. I think there is some kind of standard for having routers send geolocation information to a central repo, and I think the owners of said routers should be encouraged to do so, but I definitely do not understand the point of the Mozilla organization doing this.

Re:Privacy (3, Informative)

FunPika (1551249) | about 3 months ago | (#45993459)

If I recall correctly, the main thing that got Google in trouble was that they were actually intercepting information sent through unsecured access points in addition to mapping out access points in general.

Re:Privacy (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 3 months ago | (#45993641)

Can you really help intercepting it in some fashion if you're mapping networks? What you can help is storing it afterwards. It should have been discarded in microseconds, not months.

Re:Privacy (2)

The Mighty Buzzard (878441) | about 3 months ago | (#45993799)

Yes, for a fairly broad definition of yes anyway. There's no need to ever actually connect to any network to map them, just slurp up SSID broadcasts, maybe channel and signal strength. There is no reason to ever write any traffic to non-volatile storage.

Re:Privacy (2)

Chuck Chunder (21021) | about 3 months ago | (#45994149)

There's no need to ever actually connect to any network to map them, just slurp up SSID broadcasts, maybe channel and signal strength.

You don't need to 'connect' to them but IIRC there is some benefit to looking at the traffic beyond mere broadcasts. IE if you can see device X sending traffic to Y you can begin to imply the position of Y even if you can't see it that device yourself because it's too far away from you.

A <------ X <-------> Y

Moz might not be doing that and perhaps it isn't a "need" but if the goal is to get the best data it's not correct to say that deeper analysis than mere SSID broadcast doesn't have benefits. Of course if you are looking deeper then you should be paying attention to any possible privacy implications and avoiding recording anything that could be considered 'content'.

Re:Privacy (2, Informative)

master5o1 (1068594) | about 3 months ago | (#45994615)

Also to improve GeoIP: If they connect to the WiFi, know the IP it uses to get to Google servers. Then they can provide the most probable location data back when some device on that IP asks for location information.

Re:Privacy (2)

sjames (1099) | about 3 months ago | (#45996223)

That is going to be of limited use though. There is a good but less than 100% chance that the AP is stationary, There is a good bit less chance the thing it is talking to are stationary.

There is more safety in sticking with beacon packets as well. It's really hard to claim that a beacon was meant to be private.

Re:Privacy (1)

Chuck Chunder (21021) | about 3 months ago | (#46002641)

I think you are misunderstanding what I meant. In my example "Y" was the stationary AP, you as "A" can't see any packets from it directly because you are out of range, but you can see data being sent by "X" to "Y" (as "X" is in range of both you and "Y"). As I understand it by looking at the packets being sent to "Y" from "X" you can know enough about "Y" to add it to your geolocation data even if you haven't observed any data from it directly.

Re:Privacy (1)

sjames (1099) | about 3 months ago | (#46003363)

That could be somewhat useful, but would be a much lower precision so would need to be noted a such.

Re:Privacy (4, Informative)

cheater512 (783349) | about 3 months ago | (#45994215)

Completely. This just looks for the 'announcement' packets from access points. It doesn't care or do anything about the data packets.
You are intercepting data just as much as your phone does when you go to the wifi page and it shows the list of access points near by.

Google was accidentally storing all the raw data for debug purposes (which got left turned on).

Re:Privacy (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45996781)

Google was storing all the raw data.

Fixed that for you.

Accidentally? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45997077)

Why the Google ad broker propaganda? One doesn't accidentally store such an amount of data for such an amount of time. End of. Don't echo their propaganda like some idiot fanboy.

Re:Accidentally? (1)

swillden (191260) | about 3 months ago | (#46002935)

One doesn't accidentally store such an amount of data for such an amount of time.

Umm, Google kept the data because they recognized that the logging was going to provoke regulatory investigations, and deleting it could be construed as destruction of evidence.

Re:Privacy (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45993469)

>What's the point of this?
  RTFS, geolocation.

>Didn't the FTC fine Google for this kind of activity?
No, they got fined for a different aspect.

Re:Privacy (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45993507)

I'd say this is especially an issue with so little data currently.

I can currently narrow out individuals in my neighbourhood, the paths they took from their houses (which I can narrow down to about one of 6 addresses in two caes i'm looking at) to the local shopping center, to another persons house (friend, relative - unsure but it'd help identify the individual), and back to their house in this case.

If I got the complete data with timestamps, I could easily and completely filter out individual trips without a shadow of a doubt - which would help identify individuals even more so with the current level of data.

I hope the data becomes saturated soon, because as it stands there are literally about 30 people in my entire state (ACT, AU) being tracked - for most of which I can see where they like to walk/ride (which rivers/paths/tracks), where they shop, where their friends/relatives are, where they work for some of them (some areas are just business complexes), and if I could figure out the frequency of data transmission - along some motor ways I can even figure out how fast they're driving based on the dispersal pattern of data points.

This is a SERIOUS privacy issue.

Re:Privacy (1)

icebike (68054) | about 3 months ago | (#45993583)

You are right, of course, it merely follows people, it says nothing of signal paths, and can't distinguish no-signal areas from un-visited areas.

And showing a map when there are so few participants is pretty silly.

For cell reception, this is useless.
For wifi mapping, this is redundant [wigle.net] .

WiGLE EULA (1)

tepples (727027) | about 3 months ago | (#45995593)

You are right, of course, it merely follows people, it says nothing of signal paths, and can't distinguish no-signal areas from un-visited areas.

If trilateration signal in a given area is marginal, the data collection should mark the area as marginal. If marginal area surrounds unvisited area, one can be fairly confident that the border is between a visited area and a no-signal area.

For wifi mapping, this is redundant

Not if Mozilla plans to make the data available to the public under terms more permissive than the WiGLE EULA [wigle.net] . It could be an example of what Google's Greg Stein called "license pressure" [slashdot.org] .

Re:Privacy (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45993693)

Yeah, this is actually quite disgusting - I can narrow out an individuals travels between two major cities, I can even see where they stopped off to take a break (at McDonalds about an hour and a half into the road trip).

If this were timestamped and I were a PI or a detective, I'd know exactly who you are, where you were, where you came from, where you went, who you visited, and you wouldn't ever knew I was investigating you - I never would have contacted you, or your friends. If I were a hacker and you pissed me off on 4chan or IRC or what not, I'd have your IP which I could narrow down to an ISP, and in many cases to a specific exchange which would serve only a few suburbs - I'd probably manage to get personal information on you and be able to match it to this timestamped data, matching you to a GPS stream - and follow it to one of a few houses which would be yours or a friends/relatives - from there I'd know where you lived, and you'd be in danger - WTF...

Even in larger cities like Sydney, Australia in the outer suburbs I can currently narrow out individuals and the properties they live on (and the fact they seem to like spending time in the backyard, based on this data - which is a little to accurate honestly, it's scary).

Re:Privacy (2)

mspohr (589790) | about 3 months ago | (#45993961)

I've been doing this for a few months. I can see the trip I took over New Years week down the California coast and then across to Death Valley and up to Lake Tahoe. I don't care that people can see my track (I spent some time in Los Osos and Morrow Bay and you can clearly see my routes in that area).
I assume that the NSA also has my route from tracking my cell phone.

Re:Privacy (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | about 3 months ago | (#45997171)

The individuals in your neighbourhood walk around with access points? That must be a very unusual neighbourhood. Most people who have an access point just put it somewhere stationary.

Re:Privacy (0)

0123456 (636235) | about 3 months ago | (#45993517)

What's the point of this?

So they can sell your location to advertisers?

Re:Privacy (1)

emj (15659) | about 3 months ago | (#46004063)

What's the point of this?

So they can sell your location to advertisers?

I know for a fact that Mozilla doesn't want to do that, it's stated in the project goals. The point is that it's eays to find out location without having to turn onf/have access to a GPS.

Re:Privacy (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45993591)

Presumably they do it so that they can support the HTML5 Geolocation API. And, FWIW, HTML5 Geolocation is opt-in on every request, at least in the context of general web browsing.

I've found that HTML5 geolocation is more accurate using Wifi than cell towers or even GPS. Cell towers don't give very accurate results because cellphones and tablets don't actually triangulate your position like they might do with GPS. GPS sucks because people are inside most time, and also the GPS receiver chipsets in cellphones suck compared to those in dedicated handsets.

Re:Privacy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45993923)

Presumably they do it so that they can support the HTML5 Geolocation API. And, FWIW, HTML5 Geolocation is opt-in on every request, at least in the context of general web browsing.

I've found that HTML5 geolocation is more accurate using Wifi than cell towers or even GPS. Cell towers don't give very accurate results because cellphones and tablets don't actually triangulate your position like they might do with GPS. GPS sucks because people are inside most time, and also the GPS receiver chipsets in cellphones suck compared to those in dedicated handsets.

Geolocation for what though?

Re:Privacy (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45994305)

Yelp. Google Maps. Foursquare. Whatever. All written in HTML5.

IE, Chrome, Safari, and Opera all already support Wifi geolocation. Firefox does, too, actually, but Mozilla probably doesn't like the price they're paying their third-party vendor.

Re:Privacy (3, Informative)

foobar bazbot (3352433) | about 3 months ago | (#45994411)

Geolocation for what though?

Say I go to google maps, or mapquest, or openstreetmap, or whatever. That web page will ask the browser to do geolocation, the browser will throw up a dialog something like this:

Website foo-maps.bar wants to know your location.
{Scare-text explaining why I might not want to click OK}
Send location data?
[Yes] [No]

If I click yes, the browser sends my location to the mapping site. Now I'm looking at a map of where I am, I can search for businesses nearby, etc.. Or, if I don't want a map of my current location, I could just click no, then I'd have to type in an address or search query to find the map I do want.

Or some ad server wants to show me banner ads for nearby stores, so it asks the browser to geolocation; the browser will throw up the same dialog, I'll click no, and the ad server doesn't get my location.

Or any other web site that might want to know my location for any reason, same story: The browser pops up a dialog, I click yes or no, and the site gets or doesn't get my current location.

Re:Privacy (1)

richlv (778496) | about 3 months ago | (#45996529)

{Scare-text explaining why I might not want to click OK}
Send location data?
[Yes] [No]

ans you get stuck looking for ok button !

Re:Privacy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46000535)

Well, the only way to deal with it seems to redirect user to "dumb" mode if he hits either "Yes" or "No". If user hits ESC, then you redirect to "advanced" mode

Re:Privacy (4, Informative)

tlhIngan (30335) | about 3 months ago | (#45994131)

What's the point of this?

Actually, it's to... provide an alternative locating service to GPS.

Both Apple and Google maintain a list of WiFi MAC addresses and GPS locations. In areas where there's no GPS, or GPS is extremely weak, using cell tower and MAC addresses can provide alternative location services. Or for devices without GPS hardware, it can provide location services still. E.g., if you tether a WiFi-only iPad to an iPhone, it can get your location quite accurately using the database.

Apple bought a company that maintains the database, Google built theirs up using streetview. Mozilla is probably trying to create an open-source version.

And it's that database that lead to the whole "tracking" scandal of iOS 4 - because whenever you requested a location Apple sends you a database containing locations near you as well so you can do mapping without continually asking Apple where it is. That database cache was what people said "Apple is tracking them!" Of course, it wasn't, but knowing what areas the cache covers helps in knowing where you might be. In densely populated areas with a lot of APs, Apple would send you a very narrow list that can be quite accurate to your track. In areas with more sporadic coverage, you get a bigger footprint because there's less data per square mile (Apple probably sends you a fixed number of APs to locate oneself, rather than send you all the APs within a certain radius).

So in the city, you can get down to street-level tracking. In the suburbs, well, the cache is probably only good for pinpointing to a few blocks.

Re:Privacy (3, Insightful)

AuMatar (183847) | about 3 months ago | (#45994303)

Also, GPS kills batteries. A quick network lookup (or even local, since you could cache the local area's data and request new data only when you move enough) is cheap on the battery.

Re:Privacy (1)

jfdavis668 (1414919) | about 3 months ago | (#46000339)

GPS is everywhere on Earth except the poles. Where is there no GPS? The problem with GPS on phones is the processing power required to figure out your location. The only place you may lose GPS is in areas with something blocking the signal, like large buildings.

Re:Privacy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46000977)

GPS is everywhere on Earth except the poles. Where is there no GPS? The problem with GPS on phones is the processing power required to figure out your location. The only place you may lose GPS is in areas with something blocking the signal, like large buildings.

You know, those remote areas like Manhattan.

Google-ish issue? (0)

SQLGuru (980662) | about 3 months ago | (#45993419)

Hopefully they run into the same issue that Google did.

Re:Google-ish issue? (2, Insightful)

suutar (1860506) | about 3 months ago | (#45993487)

what, storing intercepted wifi traffic instead of just the ssid? I doubt they'd forget that one.

Re:Google-ish issue? (1)

dfsmith (960400) | about 3 months ago | (#45993769)

Hopefully they run into the same issue that Google did.

Large location based advertising revenue? A global world road map with radio-location markers that exceeds many commercial cartographers' efforts? Which issue were you thinking of?

Re:Google-ish issue? (2)

Em Adespoton (792954) | about 3 months ago | (#45993863)

Maybe the one where they've got so much money that they can drop $3.2bn on a thermostat company and count it as an operating expense?

How about they fix their fucking browser first (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45993445)

instead of making a cell phone?

Did their falling into third place in usage share ring some alarm bills? Or is Asa Dotzler still an idiot?

Re:How about they fix their fucking browser first (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45995237)

You're right. They should continue paring down all the features of Firefox so we have to use buggy extensions to get basic functionality like decent cookie management or ctrl-backspace not erasing everything left of the cursor in the address bar.

Maps roads, Not Coverage (4, Interesting)

icebike (68054) | about 3 months ago | (#45993533)

Its a frequent problem with these phone based mapping programs, that the coverage area they map is way too small, especially when they are mapping cell towers. They usually assume a reception circle about the width of a road. So they end up mapping roads, and frequently apply magical thinking to show no coverage areas simply because nobody walked there running their app.

They will show coverage on all sides of an open field, but unless someone walks a zigzags path thru that field they will simply assume there is no coverage there. I prefer carrier maps. Even guesswork by real radio engineers is better than spotwork by silly apps.

These mapping programs, when mapping cellular service would be better off mapping HOLES (no coverage areas) of each type (2g, 3G, LTE, CDMA, etc). The task would be smaller, and the data presentation far more useful. They would just log GPS position where there was no signal and send that when they again found a signal. Presentation would show service available until you actually had some measurements that said it wasn't.

That way at least the farmer or hunter working off road would have a more reliable idea of where there is likely cell service, and everybody would have a better idea of where they are unlikely to service.

Assuming it is all quiet in the forest when trees fall simply because you weren't standing there to hear it is a interesting philosophical exercise but a pretty stupid way to run a mapping service.

Re:Maps roads, Not Coverage (2)

DaTrueDave (992134) | about 3 months ago | (#45993619)

Mapping holes might be a smaller task in urban areas, but I assure you that's not the case in much of America. The two methods could easily be combined (map holes in urban/suburban areas, map coverage in rural areas) to make this an easier task, though.

Re:Maps roads, Not Coverage (1)

icebike (68054) | about 3 months ago | (#45993719)

Agreed, I have no problem with using both approaches.

But they should at least buy a real radio engineer a cup of coffee and find a reasonable estimation of the radius or reception around any given location when the device is measuring a given dBm. Assuming the signal falls to zero at the edge of the roadside is silly.

Re:Maps roads, Not Coverage (1)

crutchy (1949900) | about 3 months ago | (#45993761)

They would just log GPS position where there was no signal and send that when they again found a signal.

mod parent up... this would be extremely useful, including to those looking at possibly changing carriers

also, if you know the location of towers fairly accurately, you only need one data point to determine the reception radius all around the tower for the specific phone/device you are using

a possible complexity might be differences in reception on various devices (including possibility that "you're holding it wrong") but results could also be affected by bridges/tunnels, topography, background interference/noise (permanent or periodic), weather, type of vehicle being driven (fully enclosed vs jeep or convertible with open roof), use of external antenna or not, etc.

results likely wouldn't be consistent/reliable for everyone, but i think would still be a useful baseline, and if many people become involved the app might be able to log various conditions to help differentiate.

Re:Maps roads, Not Coverage (2)

icebike (68054) | about 3 months ago | (#45994019)

also, if you know the location of towers fairly accurately, you only need one data point to determine the reception radius all around the tower for the specific phone/device you are using

Exactly.
The phone knows what tower it was connected to.
The phone knows its current signal/noise ratio.
The phone knows how much power it needs to use to be heard by the tower.
And the phone know where it is, rather precisely if GPS is on.

If you are measuring -75dBm where you are standing, its reasonable to assume a far bigger circle of reception than if you are seeing -101dBm.
In neither case is there a reason to assume reception disappears at the ditch beside the road you are walking.

This whole thing appears like it was built by programmers without a single clue about radio propagation. I got into a email argument with one of the developers of an Android app about this very thing, and no amount of explaining could get him to understand that the signal 6 bales of hay into a field will be just a usable as the one on the highway center line. It was like talking to third grader.

It's cause you're a douche (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45995661)

I'm just gonna throw this out here but maybe the reason it always seems that no one gives a shit about your suggestions or improvements is because you do actually talk to everyone here and treat them like they are a 3rd grader. Maybe if you didn't just immediately start tearing someone's idea apart and pointing out every little scenario of why it is garbage, then just maybe people would pay more attention. When I have a know-it-all wanna-be like you just start poppin off at the mouth, I ignore you.....kind of like a screaming 3rd grader.

Re:It's cause you're a douche (1)

crutchy (1949900) | about 3 months ago | (#45997211)

i see what you mean, and maybe i wasn't the target of icebike's flame but i wasn't offended since i know most of what he said (in this case) is true. i just took the last paragraph with a grain of salt (this is slashdot after all).

technically if the point 6 bales of hay into the field that he mentioned was shielded behind an iron clad building (like a hay or machinery shed) it could make a difference :-)

Re:Maps roads, Not Coverage (3)

SoftwareArtist (1472499) | about 3 months ago | (#45993849)

I'm not sure what your point is. This isn't supposed to be a map of cell phone coverage. It's a map showing all the data points in their database. The goal of this project is to let people identify their location based on the visible networks, not to tell them what kind of network coverage they'll have in any location.

Re:Maps roads, Not Coverage (1, Informative)

icebike (68054) | about 3 months ago | (#45994093)

Follow the first link in the story. The biggest text on the page says COVERAGE MAP and when you follow the other links
it is clear that their intent was a coverage map, not a data-point map where Joe Sixpack happened to see a Cell Tower.

Re:Maps roads, Not Coverage (4, Informative)

SoftwareArtist (1472499) | about 3 months ago | (#45994169)

I did follow the link. You're misinterpreting it. This is a data coverage map, that is, a map of how much data they have in different places. It has nothing to do with cell phone coverage.

Re:Maps roads, Not Coverage (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45997793)

This is fairly obvious that they are not talking about network coverage, but coverage of location where they have location + radio information. The goal of the project is to provide location, not network coverage.

Project is for GeoLocation NOT Cell Coverage!! (4, Informative)

BBF_BBF (812493) | about 3 months ago | (#45993855)

icebike, If you had bothered read the Mozilla Location Service Project Page, the goal of the project is to create an Open Wifi AP/Cell Tower to Geo Location Mapping Database, It's not meant to map Cell Coverage. https://location.services.mozilla.com/ [mozilla.com]

This will allow the look up of rough position information without turning on the GPS using an OPEN DATABASE. The same thing that a few PROPRIETARY databases do currently.

Given this goal, road coverage is good enough.

Re:Maps roads, Not Coverage (1)

Cramer (69040) | about 3 months ago | (#45993971)

What f'ing "guesswork"? They know where the tower is, and draw a circle around it. Done. No engineer; just a database (that anyone can build from FCC data, btw) and simple program (I did it with a bash shell script.) Using Google Earth elevation data would make it a little more accurate, but that's a lot more programming.

Re:Maps roads, Not Coverage (1)

icebike (68054) | about 3 months ago | (#45994185)

If they could get that out of the FCC database, why put an app on a phone and log this.?

After all, if you look at their map, they are simply showing where people were standing (driving) at the time their phone reported, and no tower locations are shown. Look here, https://location.services.mozilla.com/map#15/47.3771/8.5373 [mozilla.com] maximum zoom into Zurich. You have streets mapped, but no tower data at all. They are replicating street maps, not tower or wifi maps.

Re:Maps roads, Not Coverage (1)

Cramer (69040) | about 3 months ago | (#45994289)

You'd have to ask them; I guess they wanted in on the whole wardriving craze -- over a decade late... The FCC only covers cell sites in the USA. (nor does it say which towers are actually *on*)

Re:Maps roads, Not Coverage (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45995695)

You just can't admit you're wrong. Again, a lot like a screaming 3rd grader. Is the answer you seek "Cause dur Moziller is makin a database fer the NSA so's they can take yer guns and fuck us all up the kornhole"? That seems to be the only answer you'll accept! It's STILL paranoia even if they ARE watching you.

Re:Maps roads, Not Coverage (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45994553)

You're trying to shoehorn this data into a coverage map -- that isn't what this is for.

Given the BSSIDs and cell towers that your device is seeing, it can tell you approximately where you are based on other people's reports of {position, BSSIDs, Cell towers seen}. It has nothing to do with estimating coverage.

So in your example, you walk perpendicular to a road, and it will still give you a rough position estimate, since you can still likely see the same cell tower as someone who was on the road. If you walk far enough into the jungle, you see no wifi APs or cell towers, and it reports that it has no idea where you are.

Re:Maps roads, Not Coverage (1)

crutchy (1949900) | about 3 months ago | (#45994617)

i thought android+google maps already does this... i think they call it "coarse-location" (due to it not being as accurate as "fine-location provided by gps)

Re:Maps roads, Not Coverage (2)

Dahan (130247) | about 3 months ago | (#45995221)

i thought android+google maps already does this... i think they call it "coarse-location" (due to it not being as accurate as "fine-location provided by gps)

They do. And if you RTFS, Mozilla is also doing it "... to compete with proprietary geolocation services like Google's."

Re:Maps roads, Not Coverage (2)

crutchy (1949900) | about 3 months ago | (#45995311)

to compete with proprietary geolocation services like Google's

how is mozilla going to "compete" with something that's already second to none, comes pre-installed on android handsets, and is free to use with no intrusive ads?

providing an alternative is fair enough (like the choice of linux distros) but if you understand the technology behind existing coarse location services already built into android handsets, what additional value is the mozilla app realistically likely to add?

maybe their slogan could be "but at least we're not google" because that's pretty much the only possible selling point.

For Firefox OS and Android devices w/o Google Play (3, Insightful)

tepples (727027) | about 3 months ago | (#45995837)

how is mozilla going to "compete" with something that's already second to none, comes pre-installed on android handsets, and is free to use with no intrusive ads?

By making it available on Firefox OS handsets and on those Android devices that don't ship with Google Play Services, such as Kindle Fire series, several devices popular in China, and phones with CyanogenMod system software installed that don't have the Gapps.

Re:For Firefox OS and Android devices w/o Google P (1)

gsnedders (928327) | about 3 months ago | (#45997453)

And while Google are obviously willing to license usage of this to some extent (e.g., Presto-Opera's geolocation used the Google coarse location API), relying on licensing something from a third party (and one whom is frequently a competitor, given the number of markets Google are now in) is risky, especially given Google has fairly aggressively deprecated APIs before, at times without replacement.

How is this different that what Google did? (-1, Redundant)

Jon Schneider (3503939) | about 3 months ago | (#45993629)

And didn't they get screamed at?

Re:How is this different that what Google did? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45994495)

Google stored data transmitted over wifi networks and repeatedly lied about it. Mozilla is simply marking the geographic locations of various wifi APs and cell towers - decidedly not storing data transmitted over a given wifi network.

Mapping Wifi? What for? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45993697)

I've done enough war driving to know that there isn't much value in mapping wifi access points. Everybodys got one... a year ago my Nexus S picked up over 5000 radios in a ten mile stretch between home (a cow town) and the office (a college town.) They're almost all secured to some degree. All you're doing is mapping urbania through its radio emissions. Might as well photograph porch lights or something.

We've already thoroughly mapped the open wifi sites; mobile retailers, coffee shops, certain bookstores and McDonalds. Everything else is pretty locked down as far as I can tell and anything not in that list is something you probably shouldn't be talking to in any case.

Re:Mapping Wifi? What for? (2)

mspohr (589790) | about 3 months ago | (#45993995)

I think one purpose of this is to help refine GPS position. If you know the locations of SSIDs then you can get a better location. No need to access the WiFi.

Re:Mapping Wifi? What for? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45994627)

An open database for position estimation *without* GPS.

If you have a working GPS signal (well, technically three+ signals from the birds), you already know where you are.

Re: Mapping Wifi? What for? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45996653)

Yeah... it remains to be seen how "open" this will become. If I cannot run a server instance home and host all data at home it is NOT open.

Re:Mapping Wifi? What for? (1)

mspohr (589790) | about 3 months ago | (#46002093)

GPS can take a while to get a fix if it has been some time or distance since last turned on.
Having an accurate location from a known WiFi spot can help the GPS get its bearings faster.

Re:Mapping Wifi? What for? (1)

Jon Schneider (3503939) | about 3 months ago | (#45997687)

I still question how useful this really is. Given that I generally have to replace my Wi-Fi Router/WAP every couple of years, often changing my SSID when I do. If this isn't constantly getting updated, then it would seem that its essentially useless as soon as a certain percentage of SSIDs change.

Re:Mapping Wifi? What for? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45994681)

When you record your known position as well as the BSSIDs and cell towers, and the signal strengths that you are seeing, when someone else in the future queries the database with "I'm seeing these BSSIDs and those cell towers, where the hell am I?" the database can give an answer. Kind of like GPS, but without the need to see the sky and with less battery drain on your device.

Partner up (2)

Erect Horsecock (655858) | about 3 months ago | (#45994189)

http://sensorly.com/ [sensorly.com]

Has already done much of what this project is wanting to accomplish

Re:Partner up (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45994683)

Looking at that, it's cell coverage only - and has far fewer data points that what mozilla already have (at least in my area).

Seems pretty useless for geolocation.

why isn't this app on google play? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45994381)

if i want to recommend it to non techie people it would be good if I could point them to a link on google play. does google play prevent it?

Re:why isn't this app on google play? (1)

crutchy (1949900) | about 3 months ago | (#45994691)

just point them to google maps, which takes advantage of android coarse location services already

In Soviet Russia, Mozilla maps YOU! (0)

Thor Ablestar (321949) | about 3 months ago | (#45995037)

There are political activists in Russia and worldwide who believe that mesh networks are usable as a backup communication medium during Internet blackout caused by political instability. The databases of WiFi geomapping just help the opponents to disrupt the backup communications.

OpenSignalMaps (2)

scorp1us (235526) | about 3 months ago | (#45995239)

How is this any different from the OpenSignalMaps project?

Re:OpenSignalMaps (2)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45996201)

This maps wifi aps to gps coordinates, while opensignalmaps maps signal strength of different cell providers. Significantly different.

Re:OpenSignalMaps (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45999533)

How is this any different from the OpenSignalMaps project?

People has heard about it.

app for n9 ? (1)

richlv (778496) | about 3 months ago | (#45996575)

so, is there an app for n9 to contribute ? :)

How is the DATA licensed? Where can I download it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45997075)

Why is the only important bit left out? How is the DATA licensed? Where can I download it?

Re:How is the DATA licensed? Where can I download (1)

greatpatton (1242300) | about 3 months ago | (#45998179)

The data is not available, this is only for Mozilla own usage and they don't even know if they want to publish the data at one point (not even a sample data set). This project is as close as Google or Apple, the only difference is that this time its Mozilla who is in charge, and they just say "hey we also provide a free API" (so this why they call it open

Re:How is the DATA licensed? Where can I download (1)

guest235 (1558143) | about 3 months ago | (#46001099)

To be fair, they also provide the sources for their client/server parts... But yes, otherwise it is as close as Google. Contribute to opencellid.org , instead (or in addition).

Illegal in some countries (1)

dutchwhizzman (817898) | about 3 months ago | (#45997159)

I do hope they realize this isn't legal in quite a few countries. Since combining WiFi AP mac addresses, SSIDs and geographical location can be used to locate people that make use of these APs, some countries legally treat this information as private, even though it can be "freely acquired from a public road". Google has been having legal trouble in several European countries for this already and I don't think Mozilla would want to have the same thing happen to them.

Re:Illegal in some countries (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45997283)

Google agreed with the Dutch Data Protection Authority to let people opt out by appending _nomap to their wifi ssid. Mozilla simply has to support that optout to avoid trouble.

Re:Illegal in some countries (1)

mjwalshe (1680392) | about 3 months ago | (#46000747)

Oh yes use up over 18% of the length of a ssid for this - I am in awe of Google's tech prowess ;-)

We still need POA (1)

Maury Markowitz (452832) | about 3 months ago | (#45998127)

Google owns all the location addresses in the world. Yelp holds a much smaller subset. I care less for WiFi location capability (everyone has a GPS) than I do for being able to look something up.

Don't Track Me, Bro! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45998423)

Looks like Mozilla is starting down that same old road. Once the get to they top of the hill, they'll realize it's a slippery slope down the other side. I wonder if they'll care. So far, everyone else that has slid down that hill hasn't cared a bit.

Apparently someone at Nokia has been contributing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46000355)

There is a sizeable point-cloud / hotspot of measurements south-east of Tampere, Finland. In a suburb called Hervanta, which happens to house a campus for this former Finnish mobile phone company.

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