Microsoft denies Windows Phone location tracking accusations

By Tom Warren, on 5th Sep 11 4:24 pm with 23 Comments

Microsoft's Live.com location map

Microsoft has denied claims that it collects phone location data without permission.

The software giant is the subject of a lawsuit filed last week which claims that Microsoft’s camera software in Windows Phone 7 users location data without explicit authorisation from end users. The lawsuit was filed in a Seattle federal court last week, backed by analysis from a well known security researcher. Windows Phone 7 allegedly sends user location info to Microsoft’s inference.location.live.net even if a user says “no” when prompted by the mobile operating system.

Microsoft denies the claims and insists the company is investigating the accusations. “Microsoft is investigating the claims raised in the complaint,” explained a Microsoft spokesperson in a statement issued on Monday. “We take consumer privacy issues very seriously. Our objective was — and remains — to provide consumers with control over whether and how data used to determine the location of their devices are used, and we designed the Windows Phone operating system with this in mind.”

The Microsoft spokesperson also explained that the software maker does not store unique identifiers with any data transmitted to their location services database. “The data captured and stored on our location database cannot be correlated to a specific device or user,” said a Microsoft spokesperson. “Any transmission of location data by the Windows Phone camera would not enable Microsoft to identify an individual or ‘track’ his or her movements.”

Microsoft has previously tweaked its location services in response to privacy fears. Microsoft implemented a change on July 30 to its geographic location positioning service. The change added improved filtering to validate requests so that the service would no longer return an inferred position when a single Media Access Control address is submitted. Users could previously retrace where a computer has been using its MAC address to query Microsoft’s location database.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Matthew-Williams/713122739 Matthew Williams

    I guess this just the hip new thing to do with these companies lol

  • http://www.vastyles.com/ Tim

    Is that a map of all the WP7 phones sold in the states?

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=11814278 Chris Woelfel

      I SEE WHAT YOU DID THERE! You attempted to make a funny! That was a great try man. Great try. I look forward to the day you make me laugh. I await your funny! :D

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mitch-Foster/100000527225418 Mitch Foster

      I thought it was kind of funny haha

    • AndyD

      If we could be so lucky to have that many WP7 sales.  

    • Grannyville7989

      Okay, that was a little funny to me despite being a WP7 user :)

    • Guest

      Private residences that Apple’s security goons rifled looking for their lost iPhone prototype (again) while impersonating local law enforcement.

    • Guest

      Carrier locations where a sales rep didn’t try to convince the prospective WP7 buyer to go Android or iPhone.

    • http://www.Nave360.com Sebastian Gorgon

      haha, you made my day 

    • Freeze

      Yup, that was me in Illinois :)

    • http://twitter.com/laserfloyd Lewis McCrary

      That’s me in Atlanta!

  • Guest

    Here’s their actual statement:

    “Because we do not store unique identifiers with any data transmitted to our
    location service database by the Windows Phone camera or any other application,
    the data captured and stored on our location database cannot be correlated to a
    specific device or user. Any transmission of location data by the Windows Phone
    camera would not enable Microsoft to identify an individual or ‘track’ his or
    her movements.”

    That sounds to me like location data *is* being transmitted to MS even when a user says no. It’s just no using a unique identifier. While the latter negates some of the plaintiff’s contentions, the former seems to support at least part of their concern.

    • GP007

      Nah, though I guess if you want to read it that way, it could, but I read it as saying “any transmission” as in, when it does, not that it does by default regardless.    I think the delay in this reply means that the WP7 camera devs went back and looked through all their code to double check and make sure they didn’t forget something on by mistake.

      Regardless, the 2nd part makes it clear that it can’t track you anyways since there isn’t enough data to make a specific match.

    • Guest

      According to MS they’re “still investigating” the issue. If the double check came up 100% clear, why say that? Yeah, I said it doesn’t support the “tracking” contention. But there could be exposure on whether they’re providing enough disclosure on what is being tracked even after you say “No”.

    • Guest

      Sorry, on the last line I should have said “collected” instead of tracked.

    • Larryw

      Just to be clear. The camera application does not ask you if you want your location data transmitted to a MS server (I believe for a refined position). It only asks you if you want it saved with your picture. There is a different place on the phone to turn of location services. The lawsuit only states that the user turned of the location services for the camera application, which is not the purpose of that setting.

    • Larryw

      Just to be clear. The camera application does not ask you if you want your location data transmitted to a MS server (I believe for a refined position). It only asks you if you want it saved with your picture. There is a different place on the phone to turn of location services. The lawsuit only states that the user turned of the location services for the camera application, which is not the purpose of that setting.

  • http://twitter.com/kid_jenius Daniel Paulino

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pzviQLCPCG4&feature=feedu

    before anyone makes a comment about location tracking regarding the camera, they should consult this video, or try their own experiments

    EDIT: it’s a video from pocketnow btw

  • Guest

    Shareholders who still believe MS stock will go up and Steve Ballmer is a capable CEO.

  • Guest

    People who paid full price for a TouchPad.

  • http://twitter.com/teusje teusje

    typo: microsot

  • http://profiles.google.com/apocacrux chris hernandez

    I kind of wish it would track my location, so maybe then the Find my Phone would actually work.

  • Foo

    People get worked up over stupid things.  Who cares if it tracks your location.  People are idiots.