Privacy implications of Microsoft's Windows Live Local

Mike Liebhold, my colleague at the Institute for the Future, is deep into
the geohacking scene. He just took a look at Microsoft's new Virtual Earth
incarnation, Windows Live Local and found some big privacy concerns. Below
is the entirety of Mike's post to the Geowanking listserv:

    The service includes a feature called "locate me" which launches a
Placelab-like wifi base-station geolocation technique.called 'Location
Finder" which listens for the MAC address and compares it to a client cache
of locations of known base stations. Placelab, which was developed by Intel
Labs, is available free for download on sourceforge, and as many people may
know, was explicitly designed by Intel to be 'privacy observant'. Unlike
most e-911 and mobile phone location systems which sureveil, and actively
track a users location, Placelab was designed to present location
coordinates privately to a user, without querying, or notifying the network.
IMHO this is a noble design goal.

    Microsoft's "Location Finder" program, on the other hand, includes the
following disclaimer in the terms and conditions link which says "Your
privacy is important to us. Click here to see our privacy policy:"

    "Use of Location Information ... Microsoft may use the information
collected to provide you with more effective customer service, to improve
Location Finder and any related Microsoft products or services,...

    Microsoft may disclose location information if required to do so by law
or in the good faith belief that such action is necessary to (a) conform to
the edicts of the law or comply with legal process served on Microsoft; (b)
protect and defend the rights or property of Microsoft and our family of Web
sites; or (c) act in urgent circumstances to protect the personal safety of
Microsoft employees or agents, users of Microsoft products or services, or
members of the public.

    Location information collected by Location Finder may be stored and
processed in the United States or any other country in which Microsoft or
its affiliates, subsidiaries or agents maintain facilities. "

    So much for privacy of Microsoft's 'Location finder' program. If this is
unpalatable to you, you may be interested in trying as I did an alternate
location techique. Instead of 'Location Finder' also offers
users a choice to select IP location lookup. As discussed here in the past,
IP geolocation is an imperfect art, dependent of the accuracy of the data in
the offical IANA database (Internet Assigned Numbers Authority.) In my case,
my IP address has shown that am in San Diego, since that's where my IP
connection is officially terminated at the downlink center for my satellite
service provider. I'm actually connected to the Internet via a KuBand
satellite in the remote wilds of Northern California, a long ways away. The
location of my dish is simply not visible to the net. It looks, to the net,
like I'm in San Diego, over 700 miles south.

    So, you might understand that I was quite suprised and dismayed that
Microsoft's IP lookup returned my actual location in the woods in Northern
California !!! Just to be sure they didn't get my address from my satellite
service provider, I called the Network Operations Center, who said the
location of my dish is private, but looked up my record anyway, and
confirmed "Our database, and the IANA database show your IP address is in
San Diego." Clearly Microsoft's IP location database includes spooky
datamined information about users' actual location that is not normally
available by querying the publically accessible databases.

    Be forewarned. 

You are a subscribed member of the infowarrior list. Visit for list information or to unsubscribe. This message 
may be redistributed freely in its entirety. Any and all copyrights 
appearing in list messages are maintained by their respective owners.

Reply via email to