Microsoft Reduces Phone Location Tracking

Posted by at 2:49 pm on August 1, 2011

Microsoft’s Windows Phone​ Partner Group program lead Reid Kuhn said in a response Monday that his company would desensitize its location tracking system. Following a discovery online that the system had published the locations of phones and notebooks on a public map, Microsoft would no longer guess at the position of a source when only one MAC address (hardware ID) appears in the system. The company had been in direct conversation with the finder, Elie Bursztein, to curb its location checks.

Kuhn stressed that it wasn’t possible to follow a moving phone or notebook regardless, but Microsoft was “keenly aware of the sensitivity” to privacy and would reduce the input regardless. Most concerns weren’t about location weren’t about live tracking but instead that unscrupulous users could find out where someone is likely to live or visit frequently.

The findings came just after a similar exposé of Google that showed similar practices. Both use the data for triangulation to help Android and Windows Phone devices get their positions but, for unknown reasons, decided such information could be publicly accessible.

Apple is also known to collect anonymized Wi-Fi location data but, both because it doesn’t run a map service but also out of policy, doesn’t publish location info in a form accessible to the web. Its purpose has chiefly been to crowdsource data for what could be its own traffic alerts.

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