Other Stuff

Cell Phones & GPS Tracking

  • January 20, 2002

Many new cellular phones have what is called, “e911” capabilities. This in one sense or another, a way in which a dispatcher at a 911 response center will know exactly where you are when you dial 911 to report an emergency.

While the advantages of reporting your location to an emergency services dispatcher may be useful, if not life saving, the cell phone may in some instances, continue to broadcast your exact location at any time whether or not you are calling 911.

Some phones, such as the one I currently own (through Verizon Wireless), allows the user to enable or disable the GPS location broadcasting at any time. However the GPS broadcasting cannot be disabled for instance, when the user dials 911.

The use of GPS in various devices is quite widespread. They have been used for many years for tracking devices used by outdoors people, vehicle tracking, and even the tracking of criminals out on parole. But lately, more than ever, GPS has been integrated into common everyday devices for the purposes of tracking and the maintaining of a person’s location database.

Through the use of a GPS (in this case, a cellular phone), one can easilly determine the location of the phone, it’s direction of travel, and its speed of travel at any time as long as the phone is turned on.

Even if the GPS broadcasting option is disabled, if police get permission to seize your cellular phone for a specific reason (such as a search warrant), the data contained within your phone can also be useful towards a possible investigation.

At a conference, I had the opportunity to speak with a police investigator and was told that a confiscated cellular phone is literally a gold mine. Not only can it reveal the calls received, the calls dialed, and the date and time of each call, the duration of the call, and a lot more information can all be accessed through the phone. In fact, most modern cell phones keep a running database of your calls.

The data that can be obtained from a cellular phone may in fact be the piece or pieces of evidence that is needed by the police. The data, which is constantly logged, is similar to credit card records in many ways.

What can be done to prevent this from happening? Many people have been debating whether or not all of this digital tracking is actually legal, or even constitutional. There are privacy experts all over the internet constantly debating this and other related issues, many in hopes of preventing all of the data logging of a persons’ daily life.

I myself consent to all of the GPS tracking and all of the location transmission and logging. I consent to this because of all things, I have nothing to hide. I am a law abiding citizen who has never once been in trouble with the law, with the exception of a few minor traffic infractions, that is.

So by this time, you may be wondering what you can do to get around all of this tracking and data logging that is done on an almost constant basis. The truth is that the government is constantly staying one step ahead of the game and is constantly implementing new and more effective ways to collect and manage information.

The best way for now is to clear the call lists in your cell phone, disable GPS tracking, and keep good tabs on who has access to your cell phone bills.

Clearing all your call lists and cell phone databases, however, will not help you if the police do manage to get a search warrant for your cell phone records. Unfortunately, by lay the FCC requires records to be kept on phone usage and there is no way in which (to my knowledge, at least), to erase or destroy these records.

And don’t worry, the government is constantly coming up with more creative and intuitive ways of collecting information about you, your whereabouts, and your activities. Your best defense will, in time, be information about said information gathering schemes.

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