Tracking Location within 6 feet! (WiFi scanning)
You might still think you are being tracked location wise using cell towers and GPS.
Well, welcome to 21st century. This new technique uses crowd-sourced way to determine location. This is called WiFi triangulation (WiFi Positioning).
This technique can use to overcome some common issues occurring when using GPS such as signal issues , environmental factors or things like quality of the receiver(your device) .
WiFi triangulation uses nearby WiFi hotspots and other wireless access points to discover where a device is located. Now days , big-Tech companies like Google , Apple use this technique. To find your location all they need is to find 2 Routers near your and based on the relative signal strength this will identify your location within 6 feet! So cool right? . But wait ,here is the scary part , WiFi Scanning.we’ll get into it sooner.
So back in 2007, Google used to sent out their Street View cars around US , UK ,Europe . If you look at old photos of Street view cars , they not only had a 360 degree camera on the top , but also a set of WiFi sensors. AND what it did was looking for WiFi signals and collecting those SSIDs and MAC addresses.
Okay , you might ask why ?, what for ? Well when it finds a WiFi ,the cars would record SSID, MAC , signal strength and the GPS position of the street car . And then with that data they will do some calculations and will able to say ,if they know 2 routers near you and the relative signal strength of each , then they will be able to tell your exact location withing 6 feet. Here s an article about it 11 year ago.
So this is WiFi triangulation. And this is okay , it is permission-based. The way WiFi Triangulation works is the application makes a request , lets say to Google , to give your location . In order to make a request you need to send a list of ( at least 2) WiFi MAC addresses near you. And that’s how the location tracking works. If you don’t want to use it , you can simply turn it of in your android settings. By the way if you search it on Wikipedia , you can even find the formulas.
Now what is WiFi Scanning ? WiFi Scanning is the replacement of Street View cars. Because the use of physical cars, is a very inefficient way . It’s costly and kinda impractical to drive all around the world. And the answer is very simple. They thought , why don’t we make every android to act like a Street View car. Yeah , what a great idea Right? .Here’s where it gets kinda complicated .It’s a great idea until we think about the Privacy aspect .
So to be clear what’s happening is , by this ,your Google android device is constantly searching for WiFi connections( 24/7) just like Street View Cars did , and collect the SSID , MAC , signal strength and the GPS location and then report it back to Google (no need of connecting to the wifi).And you can’t stop it.
Nowadays ,it’s built into every android and every iOS devices. In some devices you can turn it off the in network setting(partially ) , totally depends on the device. Again its built in the chip so , there’s a question. In iOS , WiFi Scanning is built in the qualcomm chip itself. Nothing to do with sim card or other hardware .
So now WiFi Scanning is a feature in every one of these iOS and Android Phones. And YES , there are some exceptions . Linux phones do not have WiFi Scanning. De-Googled (phones running Android Open Source Project,a phones without Google services) Android phones do not have WiFi Scanning.
People have noticed, that if you use a De-googled phone , is that the battery last longer.Note that nothing exceptional about the battery. And the reason the battery last longer is because the WiFi Scanning is Not active.
For an example , using OS s like Graphene OS makes the battery last insanely longer. Yeah , it makes a big difference.
iOS does it a little bit differently, if you are not using the phone it starts elongating the time for the scan occur for few seconds up to a minute if you haven’t touch your phone in a while. But the Google androids do it pretty frequently.
You might thinking Turning off “Find my phone” will stop this. umm NOPE. when you turn off find my phone , it will not stop the tracking , all it does is, it stops you from seeing the tracking . No way out my friend.
If you have an Android device go to Developer Options > Networking > Wi-Fi scan throttling enabling this is help you to save battery a little bit more .
And now in 2021/22 with the COVID-19 situation we saw Google and Apple introducing an “exposure Notification system” for contact tracing . Which will help health authorities, and hopefully save lives . In order to do this , you have to download and enable an application.
Looking at this we can say , may be in the future, Android/ iOS WiFi scanning will become a much more open and apps like Pokémon Go will integrate wifi scanning to their game and new security solutions.
Thank you for reading my first blog post…