Windows Live Local: Location Finder & Your Privacy

A few days ago, Mike Liebhold on Geowanking expressed concern over privacy of personal information in the context of the “Locate Me” feature in Windows Live Local. This has been discussed further on BoingBoing and O’Reilly’s Radar; so we thought of adding some clarity on what goes on behind the scenes in this application and with your information.

When you visit the Windows Live Local and hit “Locate Me”, Location Finder sends signal strengths and MAC addresses of nearby wireless access points and standard HTTP request information such as your IP address to the Microsoft online location service.  The online service calculates the user’s location from a database of known access point locations and returns an approximate longitude and latitude.  If this method fails, other methods may be used such as IP address lookup. 

During this process no personal information such as your name or contact information is sent to Microsoft by Location Finder service. Also, Location Finder service was designed with concern for your personal information; secure methods such as SSL are used when transferring location information between your machine and the Microsoft location service. Since the Location Finder will only determine your location information when you visit the Windows Live website, we will not share your location information with other web sites. Also note that the Location Finder does not include an option for forwarding or sharing user location information with third parties. It is designed to work with the Windows Live web site only.  Location finder can not track users. Your location is only determined when you explicitly click the “Locate Me” link at Windows Live Local and no user has the ability to determine another user’s location.

We believe that you deserve to have your personal data used only in ways you have agreed to that provides value to you. Our privacy policy prohibits the selling, renting, or leasing of your information to other companies.

We hope this clears up some of your concerns – but let us know if you have more questions, concerns and comments – would like to address them so that you can just enjoy the power of real-time location at your fingertips!

Chandu Thota
SDE Lead, Virtual Earth
Behalf of Virtual Earth and MapPoint