Microsoft has confirmed that Windows Phone 7 does not store location history in the same way that iPhone and Android devices do.
Apple’s iPhone and iPad 3G devices log latitude-longitude coordinates alongside the time and date in a special hidden file on the device. O’Reilly media claims that Apple has been recording the data on devices since iOS 4.0 was released. “We’re not sure why Apple is gathering this data, but it’s clearly intentional, as the database is being restored across backups, and even device migrations,” said O’Reilly in their investigation into the “feature”.
Android also uses a similar method to store location data in a database. The Next Web reports that the information is refreshed after approximately 48 hours and is limited to a maximum number of entries so that the database doesn’t grow too large. Microsoft has responded to the Android and iOS claims by confirming that Windows Phone 7 devices do not store location history in the same way. The software giant confirmed to PCMag that apps require consent before they begin tracking and that the company’s “Find My Phone” services only keeps the phone’s most recent location.
Microsoft also has a mini-site for location and privacy questions. Here’s a couple of key concerns addressed recently:
If I have location services turned on for my mobile device, are you collecting location information all of the time?
No. Microsoft’s location services will only collect location information when you allow a particular application to request location information and that particular application requests location information.
Are you tracking every user who contributes location information from their mobile device to Microsoft’s location services?
No. The privacy of users who contribute data from their mobile devices is important to us. When users contribute location information from their mobile devices to Microsoft’s location services, we collect a randomly generated ID to identify a particular device, which is retained for a limited period. We use this identifier to help distinguish location requests, identify errors and improve the accuracy of location services. We don’t use it to identify or contact individual device users.
However, Microsoft’s mini-site does not answer how long the location data is stored and how often it’s transmitted over the Internet. Microsoft does state, however, that the location data and history is not stored directly on Windows Phone Devices – a key difference to Apple’s method. CNET is asking probing questions around Microsoft’s policies but the company has not yet responded. WinRumors also reached out to Microsoft with similar questions, however a Microsoft spokesperson confirmed “we don’t have any additional details to share regarding your questions.”
Apple has yet to address the concerns raised by O’Reilly Media. Ars Technica reports that Senator Al Franken (D-MN) has called upon Apple and Google to participate in a hearing with the Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law in order to discuss consumer privacy. The hearing is due to take place on May 10 in Washington, where witnesses from the US Department of Justice, Federal Trade Commission, Center for Democracy and Technology, and others will be present to discuss mobile technology privacy implications.
Apple is currently being investigated by French, German and Italian privacy regulators. Bloomberg reports that South Korea’s communications regulator is also investigating whether Apple is breaking its law by saving data on the location of iPhone users.