April 25, 2011, 1:40 PM — Controversy erupted last week when it was revealed that Apple's iPhone stores the device's location history in an unencrypted file, raising all kinds of privacy and security concerns.
Then, a couple of days later, it was reported that smartphones powered by Google's Android OS also store location data.
Is that the tradeoff facing smartphone users? Giving up privacy -- and even a measure of personal security -- in return for owning a device that enables you to be a Foursquare legend?
Not at all, according to Microsoft. Peter Pachal of PCmag.com writes:
Microsoft told PCMag unequivocally that phones running Windows Phone 7 do not store location history. Like most other phones, the platform offers plenty of location-based apps, and those apps require user consent before they begin tracking. Windows Phones also offer the common feature of a "global switch" that lets the user disable all location services, and Microsoft says its "Find My Phone" service keeps only the phone's most recent location.
Pachal adds that Redmond was the only smartphone maker that replied to his requests asking how their devices store location data.
"It is vitally important to recognize that cellular telephony is a surveillance technology, and that unless we openly discuss this surveillance capability and craft appropriate legal and technological limits to that capability, we may lose some or all of the social benefits of this technology, as well as a significant piece of ourselves," says Stephen Wicker, Cornell professor of electrical and computer engineering. "Most people don't understand that we're selling our privacy to have these devices."
Meanwhile, let's give some credit to ITworld blogger Dan Tynan for raising concerns about location privacy well before last week's revelations. Ten months ago Tynan wrote "Why location privacy is important," while seven months ago he asked, "Is your Android phone spying on you?"