Microsoft said this week it is investigating a lawsuit's allegation that the camera application on Windows Phone 7 handsets collects location data from nearby Wi-Fi and cellular networks -- even if the user refuses permission to do so.
But the company repeated its assurance that it doesn't associate a unique identifier with the location, so the data collected by the application and stored on Microsoft servers "cannot be correlated to a specific device or user. Any transmission of location data by the Windows Phone camera would not enable Microsoft to identify an individual or 'track' his or her movements."
But that statement still leaves many questions unanswered, and Microsoft has given no sign as to when, or whether, it will address them.
The allegation of location snooping is at the center of a proposed class action lawsuit filed last week in federal court in Seattle on behalf of a Michigan woman, Rebecca Cousineau, and "all others similarly situated." The legal firm filing the suit, Seattle-based Tousley Brain Stephens, hired a security researcher, Samy Kamkar, to test whether the application was collecting the data and sending it to a location database on a Microsoft server, according to CNET.
The lawsuit charges, according to the original Reuters story on Aug. 31, that Microsoft "intentionally designed camera software on the Windows Phone 7 operating system to ignore customer requests that they not be tracked." In the case of the Windows Phone camera, the location data is intended to be associated with a user's photos.
"The Windows Mobile operating system is clearly sending information that can lead to accurate location information of the mobile device regardless of whether the user allowed it," Kamkar wrote in his analysis, which is part of the lawsuit. He's probably best known, according to a Wikipedia entry, for creating and releasing the first self-propagating cross-site scripting worm, dubbed the Samy worm, into MySpace, causing the website to crash. He pled guilty to a felony charge of computer hacking, and recently has been focused on researching computer location and privacy issues, most notably with regard to Google's Android mobile operating system.