Microsoft shared the source code for its managed driving data collection on Friday.
The code is used to collect data from cell towers, Wi-Fi access points and GPS to build a positioning database for Windows Phone, Bing and other Microsoft products and services. Microsoft started to collect mapping data in early April for its European Bing Maps Streetside imagery. Dave Coplin, director of search for Microsoft UK, spoke to WinRumors on Thursday about the decision and revealed that it is very much in the interests of public privacy. Copin explained that Microsoft has been working with the ICO and privacy lobby in the UK to establish a best practice to collect Wi-Fi data. The organizations wanted assurances that Microsoft would not collect data by mistake in the same way that Google did previously.
Microsoft is now preparing to collect Wi-Fi data in its Bing mapping cars. The software giant uses Windows Mobile 6.5 devices to collect the data and the software was developed by the Windows Phone Engineering team. The source code, released here, uses publicly documented APIs to access cell tower, Wi-Fi access points and GPS data. “The software does not intercept wireless data transmissions from consumers’ computers (so called “payload” data),” says Microsoft’s Reid Kuhn, Partner Group Program Manager of the Windows Phone Engineering Team.
Microsoft will use the data for services that Windows Phone and Bing use, including search results, weather, movie times, maps and directions based on a device’s current location. Coplin also explained that the data will be used for location services in Windows 8.
Bing is now preparing to release its first round of imagery for the UK soon. Coplin explained that the company had originally planned to make the Streetside imagery available in May but due to some essential datacenter work it had been delayed. The first sets of imagery, based on initial driving in London, is expected to be available in the coming weeks.