I love all the speculations of equivalent scenarios!
Regardless of legality (seems illegal to me--the storage of data at least), it is, at the very least, a bit unethical and quite douchebagish to do this, whether it is the fault of google, or the fault of their un-named engineer. I'm sure the engineer was thinking they could somehow benefit from this. On the other hand, if people think google was unaware of this, then it's a naive perception of google given how rich the data could have been regarding demographics. I mean, google gets a ton of revenue from advertisements. Knowing how to perfectly target demographic groups with specific advertisements is a nice idea to keep around...
Originally Posted by Stealth Pyros
Ehhh.... honestly I'm sure Google with all their fortune can prove that the information they collected is absolutely harmless. I highly doubt that they actually collected legitimately sensitive crap like saved photos/videos/documents. I can imagine that all they really collected was maybe... a tree of their network devices and folders maybe? Like say:
Network X has:
Shared network folder (which includes shared subfolders)
-Vacation videos folder
-Baby videos folder
-Porn videos folder
I highly doubt that in the seconds that they were in range of the Wi-Fi area that they were able to obtain any actual files.
Anyone who put these files in a shared folder obviously wanted to do it. You can't just 'accidentally' share your personal folders. It's actually a bit of a pain to share folders on a network for someone who doesn't know how to do it. Someone with enough knowledge to share their folders over a network should most definitely have enough knowledge to secure their network as well, knocking this whole debate against Google back to square 1: if you don't want to be seen, conceal yourself.
Quite the contrary. Having a "shared" folder does not imply free public access. It gets back to the question of if a window is left open, does it allow you free use of the building? Of course not--it's a private area.
And even if the information that was viewed and saved was, in fact, "harmless," it still doesn't make it legal. Just because someone left post-it notes on their private office desk with benign information on it doesn't allow or excuse you to look at them.