There are many who have assumed Google's WiFi snooping was “limited” to mapping of routers. However an article in Computerworld reporting on new developments in an Oregon class action law suit links to a patent application that speaks volumes about what is at stake here. The abstract begins (emphasis is mine):
“The invention pertains to location approximation of devices, e.g., wireless access points and client devices in a wireless network. “
By “client” the patent is referring to devices being used by you and your family. This interest in the family devices is exactly what I supposed – it is the natural conclusion you reach using the kind of thinking that drove the Street View WiFi initiative. The abstract continues,
“Location estimates may be obtained by observation/analysis of packets transmitted or received by the access point. For instance, data rate information associated with a packet is used to approximate the distance between a client device and the access point. This may be coupled with known positioning information to arrive at an approximate location for the access point. Confidence information and metrics about whether a device is an access point and the location of that device may also be determined…
“A location information database of access points may employ measurements from various devices over time. Such information may identify the location of client devices and provide location-based services to them. “
The system is actually doing measurements inside your house or business.
We will refer to these aspects of the plan when examining in further detail the potential harm the construction of massive MAC address databases can bring.
[Read the whole patent here]