updated 12:25 pm EDT, Mon July 25, 2011
Google Street View now known to have seen devices
Google's Street View Wi-Fi gear caught the locations of individual devices before it was pulled back, insiders uncovered Monday. Confirming claims by French officials, CNET heard that the unintentional Wi-Fi scans had picked up the locations and MAC addresses of smartphones, computers, and individual routers.
The company acknowledged that its more recent, deliberate Wi-Fi hotspot cataloging project through Android phones included publicly available MAC addresses and similar details. It declined to say whether the same had happened with the Street View project, where an engineer purportedly left code in by accident that ended up scraping network traffic worldwide.
Any exact hardware details were likely collected just as unintentionally but aren't likely to help Google's legal troubles over Street View. The US, South Korea, and multiple European countries have all been investigating Street View after Google revealed that its Street View cars had Wi-Fi that was collecting traffic, not just a planned hotspot map. Mobile location has been a hot button issue and has drawn criticism to Google most of all, where its location requests are opt-in but are more detailed and not always easy to cancel.
American officials have been demanding at least voluntary behavior checks come into effect. Senators have been proposing a mandatory consent rule on mobile location that would require any apps ask permission before sending even anonymized location data.