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Rivera: Windows Phone Location Tracking Claims Are Suspicious

My Windows Secrets co-author, Rafael Rivera, has examined the claims made in a recent lawsuit against Microsoft for its supposed tracking of user locations via Windows Phone and has found them lacking. He also noted that none of the authors of news reports and blog posts about this event even went to the effort of finding and evaluating the legal claims. So he did so himself.

What he found was that the claim itself is skimpy and provides no actual proof the claimed tracking. It misrepresents what the cited location notification on Windows Phone represents. And it uses a non-standard phone/wireless carrier configuration that further undermines the credibility of the complaint.

And Rivera has own insider experience dealing with Microsoft about various Windows Phone issues, thanks to his work with the ChevronWP7 team, which seeks to open Windows Phone development for enthusiast developers. This team has worked closely with the Windows Phone team at Microsoft over the past year.

"Microsoft goes out of its way to mask hardware IDs," Rivera notes, undercutting the notion that Microsoft could somehow be collecting this information, a central claim of the lawsuit. He cites an API that Microsoft uses on Windows Phone to "protect the privacy of a device by providing applications with a hashed version" of the device's unique identifier.

Is Microsoft using this obfuscation for its own internal services? Microsoft says it is not storing user location data, and even with a casual examination of the complaint, Rivera says Microsoft's contention appears to be borne out. But he'll be doing testing in the near future to definitively confirm or rebuke this charge.

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