Google details OnHub data collection and opt-out instructions

— 1:19 PM on August 20, 2015

When Google announced its OnHub Wi-Fi router, many folks wondered  just how much data the company would collect from its On services. Google has published details about what data the OnHub and Google On app collect and how that data is used. In a move that might put some minds at ease, the company says "the Google On app and your OnHub do not track the websites you visit or collect the content of any traffic on your network."

Based on Google's details, most of the data the OnHub collects is related to the devices on or near the wireless network. The OnHub and On app need to know the broadcast information (i.e. name) of each device, or the MAC addresses of devices without a name, to display a list of connections. Those MAC addresses are supposedly stored only on the router, and not in Google's cloud. Other information the router and app collect include network status, data usage statistics, and some information about nearby networks, like access points' network names, MAC addresses, supported wireless standards, and channel usage.

Google says most of this data is used by the OnHub's associated cloud services. The names of devices are broadcast to the On app for network management purposes. The OnHub and On app will perform automatic troubleshooting if the router loses its Internet connection, or if the network doesn't perform optimally. Because it knows about other Wi-Fi networks, it can also automatically select channels. So far, this sounds like many other routers.

The company plans to aggregate "counts of WAN type usage (DHCP, Static IP, PPPoE) and mean download time for update payloads" to "improve the OnHub service for all OnHub products." OnHub and On app crash reports and anonymous usage statistics are automatically sent to Google, as well. If an OnHub owner sends a diagnostic to Google, it will include the router's log, but that data is "sanitized" to remove MAC addresses, email addresses, and other personally-identifiable information. Owners can opt out of sending this data to Google, however. The company has provided a simple walk-through on how to opt out of sending diagnostic info.

Finally, Google described its data retention policy for the OnHub and On app. When the OnHub is reset to factory defaults, all logs are deleted. If owners delete their Google accounts, the router will automatically perform a factory reset the next time it connects to the Internet.

If owners are uncomfortable with any of this data collection, any or all of the above types of monitoring can be turned off in the privacy settings of the On app.

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