Microsoft accused of Windows Phone tracking 'cover-up'

Microsoft accused of Windows Phone tracking 'cover-up'

Summary: Is it making a mountain out of a molehill?

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The class-action lawsuit over the Windows Phone camera app tracking scandal has been updated by the plaintiff, who now claims that Microsoft has tried to 'cover-up' the issue.

The initial lawsuit centered around how the Camera app in Windows Phone sent the following information to Microsoft without consent:

  • OS Version
  • Device Information
  • Wireless access points in the vicinity of the handset, including MAC addresses and power levels
  • Various GUID-based identifiers
  • Pin-point positioning information

Within Windows has the updated complaint [emphasis added]:

Although Microsoft attempts to blame its unauthorized tracking scheme on a software "bug," the true facts show otherwise. Microsoft is one of the largest and most renowned software developers in the world, with a highly sophisticated staff of engineers. The idea that, during the programming process, these software engineers simply "overlooked" the fact that their own code was designed to ignore users' refusal to consent to be tracked is untenable.

Furthermore, as described above, Microsoft made very specific representations to U.S. Congress members about the very functionality of its Windows Phone 7 OS that the Company now claims is flawed. Even assuming, arguendo, that Microsoft's initial oversight led to the unlawful transmission of its users' geolocation data, surely Microsoft's engineering team conducted further investigation into the software before submitting to Congress that its software never transmits geolocation data without express permission of the user.

In truth, this was no coding error. Microsoft intentionally programmed its software to send its users' geolocation information to its servers without consent because it wanted to maximize the amount of data it receives for use in its database. Now that it has been exposed, Microsoft is attempting to cover-up its malfeasance.

Microsoft has fixed this issue in the Windows Phone 7.5 'Mango' update.

My take ... a bug's a bug. This lawsuit is making a mountain out of a molehill. The idea that a company like Microsoft should be able to test bugs out of code is blown apart by the simple fact that software - Microsoft's and everybody else's - is rife with bugs. Just because a bug seems nefarious doesn't mean that it is nefarious.

Also, I'm not sure where this idea of a cover-up is coming from. I've not seem any attempt on Microsoft's part to hush-up this issue, and no goons have appeared at my door for writing about it.

I can't tell if this lawsuit is frivolous or just plain stupid.

(Image credit: Identity Photogr@phy)

Topics: Microsoft, Mobility, Operating Systems, Software, Windows

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15 comments
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  • RE: Microsoft accused of Windows Phone tracking 'cover-up'

    What are they covering up? They admitted to it!
    The one and only, Cylon Centurion
  • RE: Microsoft accused of Windows Phone tracking 'cover-up'

    When is ANY cellphone not trackable when it is being used?
    That's the one I want!! To date, all of them I'm aware of
    can be tracked in some fashion.
    wizard57m-cnet
    • RE: Microsoft accused of Windows Phone tracking 'cover-up'

      @wizard57m@... Well, the alternative is... a fixed line :-) but then they most certainly know your location :-p
      belli_bettens@...
  • It's both stupid and frivolous. If I were the judge I'd toss it and

    I'd make the plaintiffs pay MS legal bills for this one.
    Johnny Vegas
  • RE: Microsoft accused of Windows Phone tracking 'cover-up'

    The one potentially valid point that everyone's ignoring is:

    "...surely Microsoft???s engineering team conducted further investigation into the software before submitting to Congress that its software never transmits geolocation data without express permission of the user."

    The user does have a point there. Whatever else in their argument that lacks credibility, they are right in that it's hard to believe that nobody examined the code before testifying to Congress about the code. If so, that's a pretty lax attitude toward Congressional testimony they've got going on over there in Redmond.
    jgm@...
    • It's a big company

      Never attribute to malice that which can be explained by bureaucratic laziness. The kind of guys who testify before Congress are lawyers based in DC. They probably sent an email to the VP over the phone division asking what to say about this. The VP talked to a couple of mid-level managers who checked the spec and made sure it called for requiring user permission. And off they went to Capitol Hill.

      Did anybody really pore over every line of code to make sure? Heck no. They thought they had it under control.
      Robert Hahn
  • Live from the grassy knoll

    <ul><i>Microsoft intentionally programmed its software to send its users??? geolocation information to its servers without consent</i></ul><br>That's stupid. Microsoft knows full well that such a thing would be discovered; in fact, it was. And for them to do that right on the heels of Apple and Google getting busted for the same thing strains credulity.

    Lawyers. Feh.
    Robert Hahn
  • RE: Microsoft accused of Windows Phone tracking 'cover-up'

    In my opinion Apple and Microsoft both did it on purpose and like with tons of other similar situations because of hubris did not think they would get caught or believed that if they did the profits they made from selling the data will outweigh any penalty.
    edkollin
    • RE: Microsoft accused of Windows Phone tracking 'cover-up'

      @edkollin

      I tend to agree, both made calculated decisions to carry on this activity, in the hopes that people would not catch on.

      It proves one thing, when it comes to large companies, <b>you can not trust them.</b>
      fatman65536
  • RE: Microsoft accused of Windows Phone tracking 'cover-up'

    With the track record of Micr0$uck$, shouldn't they be trusted? Why on earth would someone not trust an INNOVATOR like them? Trust is something that is earned, and they have obviously earned it.
    HackerJ
    • RE: Microsoft accused of Windows Phone tracking 'cover-up'

      @HackerJ
      Same as Lino$uck, Appo$uck, Uno$uck, and all other past and furture$uck... As you can see, we all can $uck! $uck much???
      eargasm
  • RE: Microsoft accused of Windows Phone tracking 'cover-up'

    Huh? code was written to send information to a server. How is it a bug if your phone was sending certain info to a certain place?
    W.E.
    • RE: Microsoft accused of Windows Phone tracking 'cover-up'

      @W.E. The bug was that if you opted out then it should not have sent the information to the servers. It was sending the information regardless of your choice. So it's a bug.
      rollo1002
  • RE: Microsoft accused of Windows Phone tracking 'cover-up'

    Microsoft, Google, Apple, and Facebook (and others?) all had the same bug by accident? I find that is stretching coincidence a little far. I don't think I'm paranoid to say it wouldn't surprise me if they left the code in and added remote activation.
    mike five
  • Errr....

    Covering up By fixing it? And when Google was caught grabbing WiFi info including where unprotected WiFi networks, was that a developer goof or just a goof? And when they "corrected" the problem, was that a coverup? Or how about Apple grabbing info they should of? Was that a developer goof and then a coverup? All three have quality developers. Useless lawsuit. Useless blog.
    Gisabun