Should I be concerned about privacy with Google's Chromecast?

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Q. You list Google Chromecast as one of the “Best of the Year.” Are you concerned about privacy with a product that requires users to log on to and provide the name and password for their home wireless network? Does this mean that the next time Google’s Street View camera cars drive by that they can legally capture Wi-Fi traffic because the user has voluntarily provided that information?—Joe Story Silver Spring, MD

A. Personal information you give to any service provider is only as secure as that provider’s integrity, plus its willingness and ability to protect your information. Any Wi-Fi-connected device that uses a service provider, such as your smart phone or set-top box, also stores your login information and could even “back it up” to the carrier’s server if allowed. In this particular case, Google’s privacy policy would prohibit its staff from logging directly on to your Wi-Fi network. But Google staffers (and anyone else, for that matter) could “troll” your neighborhood for the names of peoples’ Wi-Fi networks and log their location.

Google says that it doesn’t collect Wi-Fi information with the Street View vehicles. Instead, it says it does it by gathering data in the background from smart-phone users who have Wi-Fi and GPS turned on and have agreed to share received location data with Google. To render your Wi-Fi anonymous to such trolling, you can choose to turn off “SSID broadcast” in your router settings.

Your Wi-Fi router’s name will then show up as blank in any search, and you’ll have to remember it and give it to any guest (or new device, such as Chromecast) that needs access. If you just want to drop it from Google’s location service, add “_nomap” to the end of the existing name.

Check our guide to online security for more information.

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