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Geolocation monopolyAugust 08 2021 15:06:19

For the tracker software/project hosted on this website I've chosen HERE as the location system - even though it's a lot less accurate than Google's location system. This is a cost based decision - google charges 200$ for 20.000 location requests monthly - where as with HERE the first 250.000 requests are free. Google can charge this much because their network *is* very accurate. Since the majority of mobile phones run Android - and Android is built by google, they can use those phones to determine the location of all WiFi networks around them. This allowed Google to build the world's biggest database of WiFi networks - using their grip on the mobile phone market to outclass any other vendors of location data.

It wasn't always this way. In the early 2000s, wardriving was popular and websites like wigle provided free WiFi mapping services. Back then this was a fun hobby for hackers - to find open WiFi networks they could exploit, or use to locate people. Then smartphones came along - and everybody had both a GPS chip and WiFi modem in their pocket. It wasn't long before massive corporate databases of WiFi networks were constructed with data gathered by all these smartphone users.

This brings us to today where there is virtually just one WiFi geolocation provider: Google. And because they are the only one with great accuracy - they can charge awfully high prices. The cost of google is 10-20x higher than competitors - and to maintain a simple WiFi based location tracker that tracks every minute for a month would cost over 200$ in google API calls. Once every 10 minutes tracking costs roughly 40.

Since all open source projects on WiFi geolocation seem to be rather dead - this is also a call to action - why can't we as an open source community provide an Android add-on that does the same thing Google does - and that creates an open source geolocation database. Google has the advantage of having all their software preinstalled on every phone - but ideally I'd like to be able to choose a free and open source location provider on installation of the operating system. This would provide people with less means the ability to do geolocation effectively and cheaply. Why can't geolocation providers be like search engines or browsers - where the user gets a choice which one to use upon installation of the operating system. This has already happened in the EU for browsers for instance - because shipping everything preinstalled with the OS led to a monopoly in the browser market for Microsoft. Why should google be treated differently?