Microsoft has collected the locations of millions of laptops, cell phones, and other Wi-Fi devices around the world and makes them available on the Web without taking the privacy precautions that competitors have, CNET has learned.
The vast database available through Live.com publishes the precise geographical location, which can point to a street address and sometimes even a corner of a building, of Android phones, Apple devices, and other Wi-Fi enabled gadgets.
Unlike Google and Skyhook Wireless, which have compiled similar lists of these unique Wi-Fi addresses, Microsoft has not taken any measures to curb access to its database. Google tightened controls last month in response to a June 15 CNET article, and Skyhook uses a limited form of geolocation to protect privacy.
Microsoft assembled the database through crowdsourced data gathering from Windows Phone 7 devices and through what it calls “managed driving” by Street View-like vehicles that record Wi-Fi signals accessible from public roads. Its Web interface is, the company says, intended to provide “search results, weather, movie times, maps and directions based on a device’s current location.”
Read more: CNet