Microsoft hit with mobile tracking lawsuit

Microsoft attracts a lawsuit over locations-based information being sent back to its servers by the camera app.
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor

Microsoft has been hit with a lawsuit which claims that the Windows Phone 7 operating system tracks its users without their permission.

The lawsuit, filed at the U.S. District Court, Western District of Washington, revolves around how the camera app works, and claims that the app sends location-based information (approximate latitude and longitude information) back to Microsoft even when users had opted out of data sharing.

1. Microsoft intentionally tracks the movements of its users' mobile devices in direct contravention of their privacy settings and the law. While Microsoft claims that users may opt-out of its location-tracking program, Microsoft has designed its mobile operating software to track its users locations deceptively even after they affirmatively deny such consent. As discussed more fully herein, Microsoft effectuates this scheme through its popular mobile operating system ("OS"), Windows Phone 7 ("Windows Phone"), which is used by a variety of manufacturers of mobile devices, such as HTC, Samsung, and LG. Regardless of the device model, Microsoft consciously designed its OS to siphon geographic location information from users and transmit their specific whereabouts to Microsoft's server

5. Users clicking "cancel" explicitly deny Microsoft access to their geolocations. Unfortunately for its users, however, Microsoft brazenly continues to collect users' location information, regardless of whether or not the individual chooses "cancel" so as to not allow such information to be tracked. Thus, Microsoft surreptitiously forces even unwilling users into its non-stop geo-tracking program in the interest of developing its digital marketing grid.

This is happening despite Microsoft telling Congress that no data would be collected without user consent:

19. In April of 2011, leaders of the United States House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce sent letters to a number of developers of mobile device operating systems, including Microsoft, requesting information about how their software was designed to track and store users' locations. In its response to Congress's inquiry, Microsoft unequivocally stated that the Windows Phone OS never collects geolocation data without the express consent of its users.

The lawsuit has been filed on behalf of Rebecca Cousineau, a Windows Phone 7 user, and seeks "injunction and punitive damages, among other remedies."

Microsoft has so far declined to comment on the matter.

Complaint here [PDF].

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