Will Windows 7 track your every move?

One good place to look for what might be coming in Windows 7 is an early planned feature list of Vista (then called Longhorn) back in 2003.

If one intriguing feature, called Location Awareness, makes its way into Windows 7, it could track your every move...and that could be a good thing.

Microsoft described Location Awareness, along with a host of other planned features, in a document called the Windows "Longhorn" Pre-Release Privacy Statement that detailed to beta testers Longhorn's expected data collection and use. (Thanks to istartedsomething for uncovering this document and its relation to another potential Windows 7 feature, HomeGroup.) Many of these features never made it into Vista --- remember WinFS anyone?

Location Awareness, according to the Microsoft document:

collects computer location data such as address, position, building/floor/room, and stores it locally in the WinFS store. It also collects data that helps to determine the location information of your computer, but is not directly useful as location information itself, such as: MAC addresses of access points near your computer and the IP address of the subnet and default gateway to which you are connected. It collects data from you, from the active directory, from wireless zeroconfig, and from IPhelper.

The document also notes that Location Awareness would be turned off by default. The potential privacy implications are clear and serious, but because the feature would turned off by default, it shouldn't be a serious issue, as long as you could easily turn it on and off, and there were some clear indication when it was turned on.

The paper notes that the information gather about your location would be available to all Windows applications:

Any application can access this data once the Location Awareness service is started. Third party plug-ins can also be written to allow for other location awareness applications to provide information through this API (e.g., GPS plug-in).

As for how applications might use the information, here's what it says:

Applications can obtain your location information from the Location Awareness service and make decisions for you automatically based on your location. Such decisions might include automatically finding points of interest near your, finding printers near your and allowing you to show your location to your contacts.

This would embed social networking capabilities, and geographic social networking, directly into the core of Windows itself. And the feature is clearly aimed not just at PCs and laptops, but any devices with Windows embedded in it.

source: blogs.computerworld.com

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