A Seattle lawsuit filed last Friday accused Microsoft and Windows Phone 7 mobile OS of underhandedly tracking its users’ location. The act was said to have been carried out through the camera app present on all WP7 devices, transmitting data to Microsoft with or without the owners’ consent. If proven true, is a detour from Microsoft’s previous commitment of learning from Android’s geolocation mistakes.
The lawsuit claims to have been filed on behalf of a Windows Phone user. His/her identity is yet to be known and it’s unclear how the he/she managed to uncover this issue. The said user was asking for “injunction and punitive damages, among other remedies” for the offense.
Microsoft previously told the American Congress that geodata collection is only made possible should the owner permit the company. However, the lawsuit said it wasn’t true and asserted that Microsoft still tracks even if denied. “Microsoft’s representations to Congress were false,” the lawsuit says. Microsoft has yet to comment on the issue.
Apple was also sued on the same grounds earlier this year. A lawsuit accused iOS of furtively collecting location data even if the location software was turned off and holding it up for a year. Apple issued iOS 4.3.3 software update to handle the problem. A week before the lawsuit, two programmers in the UK discovered the tracking software stored in iOS devices without the users knowing, consequently amounting to a lot of concerns. Android was also sued two months after over the same issue. Though Google asks users’ permission to enable the tracking software, unlike Apple, Android does not only store the location data, it also sends the data back to Google. Both utilize the geodata in order to be more accurate in locating nearby WiFi and cellular signals, especially Android.
“I cannot stress enough how important Google’s wifi location database is to our Android and mobile product strategy,” Google location service product manager Steve Lee wrote. “We absolutely do care about this (decision by Motorola) because we need wifi data collection in order to maintain and improve our wifi location service.”
Given all this tracking concerns spawning like mad in just two months, US lawmakers went accusing the tech industry of exploiting geolocation which is a potential multibillion-dollar industry without even the authorization of the people. Indeed, with GPS and location tracking services, our lives are getting less and less private, and it’s becoming easier to make or break an alibi.