Microsoft is now accused of collecting location info from millions of WiFi enabled devices and smartphones for its own online web map services. News.com reports that Microsoft collects the location info from Windows Phone 7 smartphones and by detecting WiFi signals from other devices via cars. Not only does Microsoft collect the data but it also also publishes the database via its Live.com web site. Microsoft claims it uses the location info for "search results, weather, movie times, maps and directions based on a device's current location."
Microsoft's location sniffing is similar to what Google does for its Street View feature in Google Maps, which was reported on earlier this month. Unlike Microsoft, Google has now taken steps to limit who can access their location database. So far Microsoft has not yet commented on this location gathering activity for its maps features or if it will take similar steps to make sure that info cannot be accessed by the general public. There also doesn't appear to be any way, at least at the moment, for people to ask that their device not be a part of Microsoft's database.
The issue of companies that create databases with the location of wireless phones and WiFi devices came to a head earlier this year. Back in April, it was revealed that Apple was able to track and store the location of the users of its iPhone and iPad devices. Apple later released a software update that disabled that feature. Since then a number of lawmakers have tried to make phone makers and wireless carriers more accountable about how info collected from their devices are used.