Over the past week, we've learned that the iPhone keeps an encrypted log of location data that you can't turn off; we've learned Google does something similar on its Android devices, and, today, Microsoft laid it all out and said their Windows Phones do just about the same thing.
Here's how The Guardian describes what's going on:
Microsoft Windows Phone devices collect details about their location and will compare it to the company's own databases of mobile cell tower locations, according to information on the company's site.
The information sent to Microsoft includes a unique device ID and details of the phone's latitude and longitude, derived from the GPS system, and information such as the SSID (name) and unique Ethernet address of any Wi-Fi devices in the area.
On a help page, Microsoft explains that the company requires this information in order to send you an accurate location without using GPS. Their database, for example, knows that a certain WiFi router is at a certain address. Knowing you're in the vicinity of a router or cell tower can provide a fairly good guess of your location.
"GPS (Global Positioning System) is not available on all mobile devices or effective from all locations," Microsoft explains, "particularly indoor locations and urban environments with tall buildings. Additionally, using GPS consumes more battery power and uses more data than using Wi-Fi or cell towers to determine location."
Like Google, Microsoft also explains how to turn off location services.
Today, as the fallout continued, two of Apple's customers filed a lawsuit claiming invasion of privacy and computer fraud. Bloomberg reports:
Vikram Ajjampur, an iPhone user in Florida, and William Devito, a New York iPad customer, seek a judge's order barring such data collection.
"We take issue specifically with the notion that Apple is now basically tracking people everywhere they go," said Aaron Mayer, an attorney for the plaintiffs.
PC Magazine reports that the lawsuit takes issue with the fact that there is no apparent way to turn off an iPhone's data collection. The magazine reports that it's not the first privacy lawsuit filed against Apple:
In January, a California man filed suit, accusing Apple of producing devices that allow ad networks to track a user's app activity. A month later, another man filed a similar suit against Apple for transmitting user information to third parties without permission. And earlier this month, a Pennsylvania man filed suitagainst Apple for what he considered to be the "unlawful exploitation" of children (and their parents' wallets) via Cupertino's in-app purchasing policies.