Microsoft Collects Locations of Windows Phone Users28/04/2011 19:17
Like Apple and Google, Microsoft collects records of the physical locations of customers who use its mobile operating system.
Windows Phone 7, supported by manufacturers including Dell, HTC, LG, Nokia, and Samsung, transmits to Microsoft a miniature data dump including a unique device ID, details about nearby Wi-Fi networks, and the phone's GPS-derived exact latitude and longitude.
A Microsoft representative was not immediately able to answer questions that CNET posed this afternoon, including how long the location histories are stored and how frequently the phone's coordinates are transmitted over the Internet. Windows Phone currently claims about a 6 percent market share but, according to IDC, will capture about 21 percent by 2015 thanks to Microsoft's partnership with Nokia.
Microsoft does say, however, that location histories are not saved directly on the device. That's different from Apple's practice of recording the locations of visible cell towers on iPhone and iPad devices, which can result in more than a year's worth of data being quietly logged. Google's approach, by contrast, records only the last few dozen locations on Android phones.
The privacy practices of mobile software companies have come under extensive scrutiny after a researcher at a conference last week in Santa Clara, Calif., described in detail how the iPhone's location logging works. A CNET report, however, showed that law enforcement and forensics analysts had been aware of and relied on the undocumented feature since at least last year.
Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) today asked Google and Apple to appear at a Senate hearing scheduled for May 10, and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan has asked for a meeting. A lawsuit seeking class action status was filed today in Tampa, Fla.