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Microsoft discovers privacy bugs, fix on the way

Microsoft is reporting that they have discovered unintended behavior with its Windows Phone location services. Following a Federal Lawsuit that claims Microsoft was doing such, Microsoft said they'd look into the claims and sure enough, they found a bug.

In a statement released earlier on Wednesday, Microsoft revealed,

"We have identified an unintended behavior in the Windows Phone 7 software that results in information about nearby Wi-Fi access points and cell towers being periodically sent to Microsoft when using the Camera application, and, for phones that are configured for US-English, when using the phone’s voice command features (such as “Find Pizza”). For the Camera, the software bug results in the behavior even where you have disabled geo-tagging photos in the Camera application."

Oops.

Microsoft did state that the recent Mango Update eliminates the unintended behavior (lawyer talk for "we didn't know it was there") by the camera application and voice command feature. However, the bugs are still present when using the "Me" feature in the Peoples Hub. Wifi access points and cell tower information is sent to the Windows Phone location service each time a user accesses "Me".

Microsoft is already working on an update to fix the "Me" bug after which, information about nearby Wifi access points and cell towers will be sent only if you agree to allow the "check in" feature of "Me". There was no time frame on this update but I suspect it will be sooner than later.

In the meantime, Microsoft is reminding Windows Phone customers that you can prevent access to location information by applications and the collection of location information by going to Settings>Location and turning this feature off.

While it's never good for any operating system to have such bugs, you've gotta give kudos to Microsoft for moving quickly to identify the problem and working to fix things without delay. You can read more about this disclosure and Microsoft's Privacy Policy here at Microsoft.com.

For more intelligent discussion on the matter, take a look at Rafael Rivera's take on it here: "Dissecting Case 01438 Exhibit B, Part 4"

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Reader comments

Microsoft discovers privacy bugs, fix on the way

11 Comments

Will be interesting to see how quickly this can be rolled out. These are the situations that I want to observe Microsoft. Have they learned from the post NoDo update? Can they update a "serious" issue quickly? Will the carriers stand in their way?

Quite agree with you, it will be very interesting to see how quickly they can roll out this kind of update, as the SSL security issue wasn't really the same level of potential PR nightmare

then people in general need to stop complaining. its not like ots storing exact location, only location according to the nearest cell tower or WiFi hotspot. your bank knows everywhere you've been exactly everytime u swipe that card.

That bank argument is a red herring. Your bank card is reporting to your bank that you promised to pay this amount of money to this business because, you know, the business needs to be paid. This camera and Me tile business was not opt in.

On the bright side, it will prove once and for all if users who installed the leaked version of the RTM Mango build are on the normal update path as official channels.

No big deal for me, if MRSFT o whatever company as big as them want to find you, probably they'll. I hope they don't spy my **** **** ! hahahahaha

Glad this is over. Now can we get back to the seriousness of Windows Phone. Mango is still awesome.