A peek inside Windows Phone 7 Feedback data

With Microsoft mum on details regarding recent Windows Phone 7 data usage concerns, I decided to take a look at one of the suspected culprits: The Feedback toggle. (You can find this under Settings > System > Feedback.) The toggle ships in both an enabled state and with permission to communicate via wireless and cellular networks. But, what does this little switch do?

The Feedback toggle simply enables/disables a Software Quality Management (SQM) service that sends data collected from N number of data points and reports them back to a centralized server (sqm.microsoft.com) for analysis. You may know of another SQM service built into Windows called the Customer Experience Improvement Program (CEIP). To sound hip, some refer to the collected data as ‘telemetry data’. None of this data contains deliberately collected Personally Identifiable Information (PII).

So back to the phone. Whenever connected to the PC, Windows Phone  transmits most (if not all) of its data through the USB interface, to bounce off your connected PC via the Zune Windows Mobile Connectivity Service. While sniffing out some of the SQM communications to and fro, I was disappointed to see chunks of uncompressed textual data. On the PC, this would be okay, but on a mobile device via a carrier where bandwidth is metered – not cool. I was also unimpressed with repeat information being sent, contrary to the Windows Phone privacy policy. For example, the policy states:

As part of an email account set up on the phone, the phone will send the domain name of your email account to return available account settings for that domain.  Only the domain name is sent (such as hotmail.com), not your full email address.

… but the phone sends this data every fracking time, outside of the “email account set up” process.

Some classes of data transmitted (obtained from packets one and two):

  • Phone make, model (e.g. Samsung SGH-i917)
  • Operating system build string (e.g. 7004.WM7_7.0_Ship(mojobld).20100916-1429)
  • Carrier (e.g. AT&T US)
  • Carrier support information (e.g. http://www.att.com/devicesupport, 1-800-331-0500)
  • Email domain names (not entire addresses) configured (e.g. withinwindows.com, contoso.com)
  • Entire contents of the equivalent services file on Windows Phone (e.g. etcservices)
  • Name of enabled email services (e.g. Windows Live, Google)
  • Processes and configured SIDs running on the device (e.g. servicesd.exe, clocknot.exe, …)

Despite the wealth of information being transmitted, I haven’t (yet) seen anything humongous. These packets range from 1 kilobyte to 6 kilobytes, firing off on what seems to be an infrequent transmission schedule. Until AT&T sends me a $11,000 bill, I’ll keep Feedback on; the Windows Phone guys need it.