In a recent industry wide debate about location tracking by big companies like Google and Apple, Microsoft has decided to play it safe and turn off publishing the approximated location data from it’s Windows Phone devices.
Exact Location Data No Longer Readily Available For Windows Devices
Microsoft has stated that it completely understands the sensitive nature of giving out exact locations of it’s windows devices and by extension it’s customers and that too in a way that is publicly accessible. Hence, as of yesterday, they have clamped down on the service and changed their filters to make sure that precise locations are no longer readily available to any one who decides to look for it.
This comes as a response to a report published by Elie Bursztein, security researcher at Stanford, which claimed that Windows devices store WiFi access point records in such a way that made it possible to determine past locations. This is done through the hardware ID called MAC address that every network device has, including WiFi routers.
Microsoft’s Windows Phone engineering team’s manager Reid Kuhn said that they were in touch with Elie and would continue being in touch with similar experts to better their services.
About Location Data
Location data, ever since it’s emergence with the GPS system going live, has steadily gone on to become more and more accessible to almost anyone and everyone. What started as a highly specialized system that helped remote explorers and the military has now become a system that let’s you know that your friends are in the nearby coffee shop and before that they watched a screening of the latest summer blockbuster at a nearby theater.
Much frivolous as that might sound, it is big business now and always has been. It has a lot of legitimate uses, like navigation services that tell you where you are in context to where you want to go. And when these services are cloud based, your location data is bounced off a dozen servers on it’s way in and out. However, there are also people like the man who used GPS to stalk his ex-wife or the killer who might be stalking your every move right now.
It might be paranoia, but with easy access to a users location, a lot is easily and scarily possible. Hence, Microsoft’s move is a welcome one amongst various privacy advocates and hopefully proper annonymization and restrictions will be in place when it comes to publishing location data.