Microsoft hopes to avoid Google Street View nightmare


Microsoft has published source code from its mobile data collection software to prove it is not taking information it shouldn't from Wi-Fi connections.

Last year, Google came under heavy fire for taking payload Wi-Fi data when doing the rounds on its Street View data collection project.

Microsoft has tried to show it will not make the same mistakes by providing "greater transparency" about how it gathers data for location-based services.

In particular, the company has sought to show how responsible it is when collecting data during "managed driving" the use of cars to gather information from Wi-Fi access points and cell tower locations.

"Microsoft is sharing relevant portions of the source code for our managed driving data collection software to provide those interested an opportunity to review the code we use for collection of such information," read a blog post from Reid Kuhn, partner group programme manager for the Windows Phone Engineering Team at Microsoft.

"The source code demonstrates both the type and amount of data we collect when surveying Wi-Fi access points through managed driving."

Microsoft is using mobile phones to gather information from Wi-Fi access points, during its managed driving projects.

"The mobile phones we use for these surveys are only capable of observing the same data points about Wi-Fi access points that any phone, computer or other device connecting to Wi-Fi access points can observe," Kuhn added.

"Additionally, and important for respecting consumer privacy, the software does not intercept wireless data transmissions from consumers' computers (so called "payload" data). The software neither observes nor records any information that may contain user content transmitted over a network."

Earlier this year, the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) said it was keeping a close eye on Microsoft's Streetside projectt the Redmond giant's Google Street View rival.

Tom Brewster

Tom Brewster is currently an associate editor at Forbes and an award-winning journalist who covers cyber security, surveillance, and privacy. Starting his career at ITPro as a staff writer and working up to a senior staff writer role, Tom has been covering the tech industry for more than ten years and is considered one of the leading journalists in his specialism.

He is a proud alum of the University of Sheffield where he secured an undergraduate degree in English Literature before undertaking a certification from General Assembly in web development.