Windows Phone 7 Camera App Sends Location Data

GeocodingMicrosoft’s been accused of collecting location date through its Windows Phone 7 camera app, even without the user’s permission. Redmond denies that it intentionally tracks locations, and promises an investigation.

The accusation came in a class action lawsuit. While one jailbreaker says the behavior is missing from the just-released Windows Phone Mango update, the lawsuit is expected to continue.

[...] Microsoft is investigating this claim. We take consumer privacy 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.

[...] Windows Phone doesn’t store or use any unique device identifiers or other data that personally identifies you or that would allow tracking or creation of a location history of your device in connection with Windows Phone’s location services. Because of this, any receipt of location data from the Windows Phone camera would not enable Microsoft to identify an individual or “track” his or her movements.

According to the personal investigation of Rafael Rivera, a Windows Phone 7 jailbreaker, the camera app would indeed send information back to Microsoft’s servers at agps.location.live.net and inference.location.live.net — even without permission.

The following information are among those being transmitted:

  • OS Version
  • Device Information
  • Nearby wireless access points with MAC addresses and power levels
  • Various GUID-based identifiers

Rivera says it’s unclear whether the company is storing any of of the data it’s receiving. If Microsoft is being truthful, chances are it’s not.

(Update: The behavior is missing from the just-released Windows Phone Mango update, as confirmed by Rivera. But the lawsuit is expected to continue.)

Earlier this year, Apple was accused of storing location data locally on the iPhone and the user’s computer when the device was being backed up. Steve Jobs quickly pointed his finger to Android in an e-mail reply to a customer, accusing the rival mobile OS of tracking user data while insisting that Apple was innocent.

Customer
Could you please explain the necessity of the passive location-tracking tool embedded in my iPhone? It’s kind of unnerving knowing that my exact location is being recorded at all times. Maybe you could shed some light on this for me before I switch to a Droid. They don’t track me.

Steve Jobs
Oh yes they do. We don’t track anyone. The info circulating around is false. Sent from my iPhone

Apple’s “locationgate” is different than Windows Phone 7′s in the sense that it’s only keeping the location data on the user’s device, not transmitting it. Even so, Apple claimed the behavior was a bug and promptly fixed it in a software update.

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