Last April this year, Apple Inc., got accused of recording the location data of users through the use of iPhone. Some developers claimed that apple devices running on iOS 4 have recorded information about location without the user’s knowledge. In May, Apple updated the software so that the user has the option to delete and disable the location tracker feature.
Last June, CNET reported that Google, like Apple and Skyhook Wireless, collects hardware IDs known as MAC addresses from devices with Wi-Fi connections, including the devices’ locations, so that Google could make a map of the street addresses of access points and routers all over the world. While this helps users’ mobile devices to determine the location they want, CNET pointed out that Google, as well as Skyhook, are letting anyone access the location database, thus raising privacy concerns. Google and Skyhook Wireless, however, last month took actions to control access to their databases.
Lately, Stanford researcher Elie Bursztein demonstrated at the recent Black Hat USA 2011 security conference, that Microsoft is endangering the people because they are disclosing the location of Wi-Fi devices without any precautions. Bursztein says that Microsoft’s Live.com makes the precise location of all wi-fi gadgets to anyone.
In CNET report, Live.com makes public the precise location of wi-fi enabled devices such as Android phones, Apple devices, and other Wi-Fi enabled gadgets.
In a released statement, Reid Kuhn, partner group program manager for the Windows Phone Engineering Team, admits the allegation that Microsoft collects publicly broadcast the cell tower IDs and MAC addresses of the user’s Wi-Fi access points to offer location-based services.
Kuhn says that it is up to the users if they want to use their smart phone or other devices as an access point. However, since mart phone and other mobile devices created to move from one place to another place, they help Google and other companies in pinpointing locations. Once they determine that a device is not in a fixed location they remove it immediately from their list of active MAC addresses.
CNET has verified that Live.com’s interface acts independently.
Declan McCullagh, chief political correspondent for CNET, noted that Microsoft did not answer a few important queries about its database on why it does only includes Wi-Fi devices that are acting as access points, or whether client devices that use the networks also included. McCullagh added that if Microsoft does not collect the other vital information then there will not be a need for concern.