Microsoft finally details Windows Phone’s location data collection practices

In the wake of (largely faux) uproar over location data collection and retention in the iPhone and Android, Microsoft has finally posted information about what Windows Phone does.  Long story short: Not much, and nothing to for privacy freaks to get weird over. Here’s the word:

To provide location services, Microsoft assembles and maintains a database that records the location of certain mobile cell towers and Wi-Fi access points. These data points are used to calculate and provide an approximate location of the user’s device by comparing the Wi-Fi access points and cell towers that a user’s device can detect to the location database, which contains correlations of known Wi-Fi access points and cell towers to observed latitudes and longitudes.

Microsoft’s location determination system uses a combination of available GPS, Wi-Fi access points, and cell towers to offer location services in the most efficient and effective manner.

You don’t have to use location services from Windows Phone. We believe you should always have choice and control over access and use of your device’s location. Before any application can gain access to information regarding a user’s location, you must allow the application to access your device’s location. Applications that use your location are required to provide the ability to turn off that application’s access to your location. And you can always turn off access for all applications by turning off location services.

There’s a lot more, none of it damning. Check out the original web site for more info.

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9 Responses to Microsoft finally details Windows Phone’s location data collection practices

  1. l3v5y says:

    The big difference between this, and what Apple have accidentally done, is that this is anonymised, and secure, rather than just lying about…

    • Paul Thurrott says:

      Being silent about something you could speak out about is indeed one step away from a lie. Apple’s lack of clarity here, so far at least, is unacceptable.

  2. vhaakmat says:

    Paul, still CNET’s website headlines: “Microsoft collects locations of Windows phone users”… These journalist really hate Microsoft. There is nothing good MS can do to please these CNET editors (e.g. Declan McCullagh)

    • Paul Thurrott says:

      Right. I’m always fascinated by how one can spin a story. Microsoft *does* collect anonymous location data for various reasons–all mobile OS makers do–but unlike Apple or Google, this information is not stored on the phone, especially not in unencrypted form. (And perhaps it is WP’s lack of encryption that explains that, but whatever.)

      So how do you spin this? Pro-Microsoft sites will note that Microsoft DOES NOT store location information. Anti-MS sites will tell you that Microsoft DOES collect this information. That latter statement is “true” but does not cut to the heart of this issue at all. As I noted, all smart phones with 3G, Wi-Fi and GPS capabilities report their locations to some server somewhere, and regularly. This is like saying that the sky is blue on a sunny day. Also true.

  3. palavering2u says:

    I have read recently that interest in Windows Phone 7 is waning, perhaps because you have pointed out so many faults. Do you agree with this latest assessmentbeing offered by reviewers?

    • Paul Thurrott says:

      No, I don’t think the interest in Windows Phone has changed at all. It’s been on a slow boil since the launch.

    • cpdjoe says:

      I’ve actually liked most of the commercials that they have been putting out lately. Have heard a lot of radio spots too. So sounds like more advertising dollars r being spent

  4. lsobrado says:

    for the first time, Microsoft’s slowness to catch up saved them. I’m sure they just didn’t get around to tracking you as it is the case with most other things…like ring tones.

  5. Bobby Cannon says:

    I don’t see what all the fuss is about. It’s not like they are tracking us. Hum, are they? O.o…

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