The Daily Upside: Google Patent Could Track Users Based on Wi-Fi Connection 

January 29, 2024

While Google’s patent indicates that this tech could automatically activate devices based on user presence, physical sensors have long filled that gap, so it’s unclear how this kind of tech offers anything different from a motion-activated porch light, said Sara Geoghegan, counsel for the Electronic Privacy Information Center.  

With a lot of innovations in consumer tech, the common case is that companies will ask for more and more personal data, and in return users get more convenient and useful features. This leaves the consumer to decide how much trust they’re willing to put into these tech firms for the sake of convenience.  

But with this tech, Geoghegan said, “It seems that the potential benefits that this software service could provide already exist with significantly less privacy-invasive services. Like a lot of things in our space, I think that there is often this idea that there is some sort of convenience or benefit. But if you really look at it, it’s quite minimal.”  

Google, meanwhile, gains access to continue growing its “troves of personal information,” said Geoghegan. And while Google does make the caveat that these systems may come with privacy-preserving identifiers for the users it tracks, the fact that this system may be operated through a cloud-based system presents its own risks. 

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