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Windows phones send user location to Microsoft

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Add Microsoft Windows Phone 7 to the list of mobile operating systems that silently transmit the precise physical location of the device back to a central database.

CNET reported the location tracking on Monday, almost a week after reports of similar tracking in Apple's iPhone and Google's Android mobile OS raised concerns that smartphones could be used by police, civil litigants, or abusive spouses to track an owner's movements over extended periods of time.

Microsoft has said here that when location services for Windows phones are switched on, the devices transmit a unique ID along with nearby wireless networks, their signal strength, and GPS-extracted location to the company's servers.

Windows phones don't store any of the locations on the device itself. By contrast, iPhone 4 stores locations in an easy-to-read file that can store months, and potentially years, worth of data that police have been tapping for years. Android indexes locations of cellphone towers and Wi-Fi networks the handset has connected to, but limits entries to 200 and 50 respectively.

Both Apple and Google have said their phones report their location, but only when the devices' location services are turned on, in keeping with previous disclosures. Neither Apple nor Google has disclosed that location information is also stored on the handset.

A Microsoft spokeswoman declined to make anyone from the company available to speak about the practice. ®

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