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Lawsuit says Microsoft tracks customers without consent

By Dan Levine

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Microsoft allegedly tracks the location of its mobile customers even after users request that tracking software be turned off, according to a new lawsuit.

The proposed class action, filed in a Seattle federal court on Wednesday, says Microsoft intentionally designed camera software on the Windows Phone 7 operating system to ignore customer requests that they not be tracked.

A Microsoft representative could not immediately be reached for comment.

The lawsuit comes after concerns surfaced earlier this year that Apple's iPhones collected location data and stored it for up to a year, even when location software was supposedly turned off. Apple issued a patch to fix the problem.

However, the revelation prompted renewed scrutiny of the nexus between location and privacy. At a hearing in May, U.S. lawmakers accused the tech industry of exploiting location data for marketing purposes -- a potentially multibillion-dollar industry -- without getting proper consent from millions of Americans.

The lawsuit against Microsoft cites a letter the company sent to Congress, in which Microsoft said it only collects geolocation data with the express consent of the user.

"Microsoft's representations to Congress were false," the lawsuit says.

The litigation, brought on behalf of a Windows Phone 7 user, claims Microsoft transmits data -- including approximate latitude and longitude coordinates of the user's device -- while the camera application is activated. It seeks an injunction and punitive damages, among other remedies.

The case in U.S. District Court, Western District of Washington is Rebecca Cousineau, individually on her own behalf and on behalf of all others similarly situated v. Microsoft Corp., 11-cv-1438.

(Reporting by Dan Levine, editing by Bernard Orr)

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