Microsoft accused of Windows Phone tracking 'cover-up'

Is it making a mountain out of a molehill?
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor

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)

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