San Francisco – Google and online mapping firm Skyhook Wireless are publishing the estimated locations of millions of Wi-Fi devices, such as iPhones, Android phones and laptops publicly on the Web, CNET reports.

Such devices regularly transmit their unique MAC address to Apple, Microsoft, Google and Skyhook — but only the latter two are publishing this data publicly online.

CNET’s tests found that some 10% of laptops and phones using Wi-Fi were listed by Google as corresponding to a street address, and 5% of devices’ locations were listed by Skyhook.

The information can detail where a device was previously located, and log its future destinations.

“Someone who doesn’t have a lot of information about me can track me down. You can find where someone lived previously and where someone moved to,” security researcher Ashkan Soltani told CNET.

“We collect the publicly broadcast MAC addresses of Wi-Fi access points. If a user has enabled wireless tethering on a mobile device, that device becomes a Wi-Fi access point, so the MAC address of such an access point may also be included in the database,” Google said in a statement to CNET.

“Wi-Fi access points that move frequently are not useful for our location database, and we take various steps to try to discard them.”


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