Last week a lot of news sites picked up a story from Reuters about a Michican woman who is sueing Microsoft for collecting location data without the user’s permission. A number of our readers found that odd since Windows Phone always asks for permission whenever there is anything remotely related to privacy concerns. The litigation claims that the camera software transmits GPS cooridnants to Microsoft when active and without the user’s permission, so I decided to record a video of a freshly reset HTC HD7s running Windows Phone 7.0 (not Mango) in order to see just how often I am asked for permission.
Of course it may be that there is some hidden feature where the camera still turns on the GPS location collection feature as part of the Windows Phone Improvement Program perhaps, but we have seen no proof or details as to what exactly the lawsuit is talking about.
I decided to ask Microsoft if they could comment and here’s what they said for the record:
Microsoft is investigating the claims raised in the complaint. We take consumer privacy issues 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.
Because we do not store unique identifiers with any data transmitted to our location service database by the Windows Phone camera or any other application, the data captured and stored on our location database cannot be correlated to a specific device or user. Any transmission of location data by the Windows Phone camera would not enable Microsoft to identify an individual or “track” his or her movements.