Many consumers and policymakers are asking important questions about how today’s phones are collecting and using information about a phone user’s location. Microsoft’s Andy Lees today posted the company’s response to Congress about the ways Microsoft has taken privacy into account proactively with Windows Phone 7.
Microsoft designed the location-based services on WP7 with the following principles in mind:
- “User Choice and Control. Microsoft doesn’t collect info to determine the approximate location of a device unless a user has expressly allowed an application to collect location info. Users that’ve allowed to access location data can always disable access to location data at an app level, or they can disable location collection altogether for all apps by disabling the location service feature on their phone.
- Observing Location Only When the User Needs It. Microsoft only collects info to help determine a phone’s approx. location if (a) the user has allowed an app to access and use location data, and (b) that app actually requests the location data. If an app doesn’t request location, Microsoft willn’t collect location data.
- Collecting Information About Landmarks, Not About Users. Microsoft’s collection is focused squarely on finding landmarks that help determine a phone’s location more quickly and effectively. In our case, the landmarks we use are nearby Wi-Fi access points and cell towers. The info we collect and store helps us determine where those landmarks are, not where device users are located. In fact, we’ve recently taken specific steps to eliminate the use and storage of unique device identifiers by our location service when collecting information about these landmarks. Without a unique identifier or some other significant change to our operating system or practices, we cannot track an individual device.
- Transparency About Microsoft’s Practices. Microsoft gives consumers opportunities to learn more about its location data collection practices. When the user makes a decision to allow an app to access and use location data, Microsoft provides a link to WP Privacy Statement, which includes its own section on location services with info describing the data WP7 collects or stores to determine location, how that data is used and how consumers can enable or disable location-based features. Additionally, at the time that WP7 launched last November, Microsoft published a consumer-friendly Q&A in the “Help and How-To” section of its WP website to address commonly-asked questions about location services and consumer privacy,” stated Lees.
You can access the copy of the response here.
[Source: Microsoft on the Issues]