Remember War Driving - Google just automated it
Before some people climb on their high horses REMEMBER The Register has international readership and different laws throughout the world:
(1) WiFi is limited to a common shared frequency band, and generally most countries waive licencing. registration, etc.;
(2) Type approved equipment has to be used;
(3) No one has exclusive use, right to elimination of interference, etc.;
(4) WiFi is, generally, broadcasting so any one with equipment can receive it;
(5) Privacy is NOT assured although encryption and user/password techniques are provided to provide low level security.
(a) Google is simply 'War Driving' - see: < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wardriving > - the only difference is they automated it and added data collection;
(b) Google associates the WiFi data with GPS and pictures of surrounding scenery that can be seen from public thoroughfares - all of which can be done by members of the public;
(c) Some of the traffic it accessed was only due to the fact the WiFi base owner was either technically incompetent or too stupid not to activate the available security in their WiFi equipment;
(d) In many countries what Google has done is perfectly legal;
(e) Almost every one of the tens of millions of smart-phones in use PRESENTLY record WiFi signal data, including MAC addresses, and TRANSMIT THIS DATA along with GPS data TO UNKNOWN RECIPIENTS EVERY MINUTE THEY ARE SWITCHED ON.
So if all those people with their knickers in a twist want some cause to champion, go complain about what smart-phones are DOING not what Google has DONE. Make it unlawful to transmit GPS and WiFi data without explicit, per time, authorisation of the telephone owner. (Best tackled from unauthorised transmission time.)
Then go figure out how to tighten up WiFi security.