Microsoft plagued by laptop and phone location tracking
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Apple’s location tracking issues on iOS 4 have been widely documented and criticized, but now it looks like another tech giant has been suffering from the same symptoms. This time around, the big bad wolf is none other than Microsoft who could be in even more hot water due to their data being unsecure and publicly available.
According to CNET.com, Microsoft has already collected location data about millions of devices including laptops, smartphones and other Wi-Fi devices. Furthermore, all data appears to be available publicly at Live.com and provides precise geographical locations. These locations are not limited to the United States, and include geolocations from Spain, London, Germany and other countries.
In a statement sent to CNET, Microsoft acknowledged the tracking with the following:
“To provide location-based services, Microsoft collects publicly broadcast cell tower IDs and MAC addresses of Wi-Fi access points via both user devices and managed driving. If a user chooses to use their smartphone or mobile device as a Wi-Fi access point, their MAC address may also be included as a part of our service. However, since mobile devices typically move from one place to another they are not helpful in providing location. Once we determine that a device is not in a fixed location, we remove it from our list of active MAC addresses”
Although Microsoft may have only intended to track Wi-Fi access points, there’s no denying that various other devices were included as well. In addition, the company has failed to clarify whether devices connected to the access points are also included in the database.
Apple and Google did run into similar issues in the past, but they dealt with the issues promptly enough and their data wasn’t exactly publicly available in the first place. And while we’re hoping the folks at Microsoft resolve the issue soon enough, no security features have yet been implemented and no opt-out feature even appears to exist.