Google's method of obtaining info for its Street View feature in Google Maps has also had a fairly scary side effect. According to a story at CNet's News.com, the cars that are used by Google to take pictures of and obtain info for the feature have also taken the locations of millions of WiFi enabled devices. That includes laptops, smartphones, tablets and others.
Officially, Google's cars that it uses for its Street View feature are only supposed to note the locations of WiFi based hot spots and routers. However, the article states that the cars have also picked up the location of other WiFi enabled products as well. Indeed, until a few weeks ago, Google actually made that info available publicly on its web site. The article also says that the French government has already fined Google 100,000 Euros for obtaining the unique IDs of WiFi enabled devices via Street View cars. So far, Google has yet to comment on News.com's article. The company also doesn't have a way for your WiFi enabled device to not be included in its Street View cars' sweep of unique hardware IDs.
This newly revealed situation is similar to one that Apple found itself in a few months ago when it was revealed that the company was able to track and store the location of the users of its iPhone. Apple later released a software update that disabled that feature, but the damage was done as lawmakers have since tried to make phone makers and wireless carriers more accountable about how info from their devices is used.