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Mozilla Firefox Wireless Networking

Mozilla Is Mapping Cell Towers and WiFi Access Points 113

Posted by timothy
from the where-you-are dept.
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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Mozilla Is Mapping Cell Towers and WiFi Access Points

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  • by icebike (68054) on Friday January 17, 2014 @08:10PM (#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:Privacy (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 17, 2014 @08:15PM (#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 (Score:0, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 17, 2014 @08:23PM (#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 (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 18, 2014 @04:22AM (#45996781)

    Google was storing all the raw data.

    Fixed that for you.

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