Microsoft Again Denies That It's Tracking Users' Locations

In the wake of a lawsuit alleging that its Windows Phone OS software silently tracks the location of the handsets, Microsoft has—for the second time this year—denied that it's doing any such thing. The complaint was made by a Michigan resident, Rebecca Cousineau, who says that Windows Phone has violated her privacy rights by tracking the location of her phone.

"Microsoft is investigating the claims raised in the complaint," a Microsoft statement reads. "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."

Indeed, the Windows Phone OS actually provides users with an opportunity to choose whether to use location data, and it is clearly worded. This notification happens the first time the camera is used, but also in other situations.

But the suit claims that Windows Phone OS ignores the user's choice and tracks locations regardless. Indeed, it further alleges that the system was tracking location before the choice was even offered. "Microsoft brazenly continues to collect users' location information, regardless of whether or not the individual chooses 'cancel' so as to not allow such information to be tracked," the complaint reads.

Microsoft says this isn't the case. But it also notes that when it does track the phone's location—after getting the user's consent—this tracking is done in an anonymous fashion. "The data captured and stored on our location database cannot be correlated to a specific device or user," Microsoft continued. "Any transmission of location data by the Windows Phone camera would not enable Microsoft to identify an individual or 'track' his or her movements."

According to the complaint, Windows Phone is silently tracking phone locations because Microsoft is developing a new location-based advertising service. It's unclear where Cousineau came by that information or how she tied it to the activity on her phone.

Microsoft previously changed its location services in response to user complaints after a report that claimed the company was tracking users. But at that time, it also denied that it was tracking the location of users or their PCs and devices. "Microsoft does not collect information to determine the approximate location of a device unless a user has expressly allowed an application to collect location information," the company noted earlier this year.

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