Posted on May 2, 2012 by admin

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windows 8 location dataFor some people, the fact that mobile applications gather location data and use it to provide services is an intolerable violation of their privacy. For others, it doesn’t really matter as long as their mobile device can direct them to a nearby Starbucks. So what will change in regards to location data with Windows 8?

Windows Location Provider

In Windows 7, the Default Location Provider supplied location data via user input in the Control Panel. This was the only built-in location provider; any others had to be installed.

The Windows Location Provider will replace the Default Location Provider in Windows 8 and will operate in an entirely different manner. Windows 8 will use Wi-Fi access points and your IP address to determine where you are and give that information to some applications. There are some cases where this may be beneficial to you:

  • When you need GPS service
  • When you need local information
  • When you need weather information
  • When you need to find nearby stores

Some of the applications that get this information, no doubt, will be ones that users install themselves and that provide a service based on having information about their present location.

The way that Windows 8 gathers location information is really quite interesting, no matter what people may think about how that data is used. The operating system can reach out to nearby Wi-Fi networks and get latitude and longitude information. This is accurate to approximately 350 meters in urban areas, according to Microsoft. The OS can also use your IP address, which gives a location that is accurate to approximately 15 miles.

So where’s the off switch?

Having the option to turn off this data gathering, of course, would be the only requirement for the users who do not want it to be part of their Windows experience. Fortunately, both users and administrators will have the ability to enable or disable location settings through the Settings charm in the control panel. Users can also opt in or out on a per-app basis.

While the ability of Windows 8 to determine your approximate location might make some nervous, Microsoft is clear that they will not use location data improperly (click here for their privacy statement). As indicated above, the power is in your hands!