I probably shouldn't be singling out any particular reporter for this, but Declan McCullagh should really know better by now.
The title of the article in question is "Street View cars grabbed locations of phones, PCs" but it could easily be retitled "Tech reporter clearly surprised by the obvious" or possibly "Old news to cater to the clueless".
Some details to point out:
1. This is actually yet another silly article that seems to be designed just to spread fear to the clueless about Google Street View cars.
2. The program in question ended in May of last year, which makes this old news and anyone who took this long to figure it out slow-witted.
Simple facts overlooked by most reporters:
* Wi-Fi uses public spectrum which means it's completely legal for anyone to listen to what's broadcast... even if they're in a slowly moving car. There's nothing "debateable" or "arguable" about it--it's fucking 100% legal. The only "grey area" here is whether or not it's legal when you are Up To Something Else and that Something Else is criminal and it still doesn't make merely listening to that spectrum illegal. If it weren't 100% legal you couldn't really even begin to use the "browse" functionality in your wi-fi drivers to find your own access point.
* Every bloody wireless ethernet ("Wi-Fi") device out there has a MAC address because it's required by the standard. Not suprisingly, this doesn't mean only access points but yes, PDAs with wi-fi, cellular phones with wi-fi, fancy home alarm clocks with wi-fi, baby monitors with wi-fi, SUVs with wi-fi, home surveillance cameras with wi-fi, refridgerators with wi-fi, and countless delivery service vehicles with wi-fi.
* There is no reasonable way to filter out one "type" of device from another at collection time, nor, with what Google was planning in mind, would it even be something you'd want to do. The first three bytes of a MAC address specify what manufacturer made the chipset in question, and the rest of the bytes after that are pretty much up to the manufacturer to do with as they wish. Who made the device tells you absolutely nothing authoritatives about what it's doing.
* Google now can't go and delete that data because you dumbasses keep trying to "raise questions" about it, which keeps leading to politicians and law-enforcement people who have even less of a clue having to ask questions about it, which technically makes all that crap potentially evidence and they could much more easily wind up in a big pile of shit over "deleting evidence" than "collecting wireless confetti". ...so stop asking questions about whether or not Google has plans to permanently delete that information, because you're the reason they can't, dumbass.
* If Google's people are recalcitrant about reciting details of who they've told what when what they said and to who was easily discoverable and in many cases was even broadcast, it just might be because they're getting a little tired of being asked the same dumb questions over and over by people who should really know how to look that stuff up for themselves. It is not really appropriate to try and paint that as if they're trying to hide something.
Google has shown themselves to be at least moderately trustworthy and perfectly capable of making large piles of money just barely looking at anyone's data, let alone doing the sort of Orwellian cyber-stalking that other advertisers (*kof*Amazon*kof*) do. It's not unreasonable to assume that if they said they were just collecting bits of whatever floated by for statistics and mapping purposes and that they didn't have anything more in mind than that, that it might just be the truth.
What you should worry about are the government agencies who were just lining up to get copies of the data and whom you probably shouldn't trust. They're not particularly accountable to anyone about what they intend to do with it, and they've not really made any effort to prove their trustworthiness either. Thankfully, the data is pretty damn useless unless you really care about which neighborhoods have the highest volume of wireless network activity (which, let's face it, is likely to follow average incomes cross-referenced by population density).
Dear Reporters, STFU already.