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Legal Battles Over Cellphone Tracking 141

Posted by Zonk
from the they-know-if-you're-awake-citizen dept.
stupefaction writes "The New York Times reports on recent successful court challenges to police use of cellphone tracking information in the course of an investigation. From the article: 'In the last four months, three federal judges have denied prosecutors the right to get cellphone tracking information from wireless companies without first showing "probable cause" to believe that a crime has been or is being committed. That is the same standard applied to requests for search warrants. [...] Cellular operators like Verizon Wireless and Cingular Wireless know, within about 300 yards, the location of their subscribers whenever a phone is turned on.'"
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Legal Battles Over Cellphone Tracking

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  • by Yonder Way (603108) on Saturday December 10, 2005 @08:29AM (#14227871)
    It's a lot closer than that. I used to work for one of the companies that designed this technology.
    • If you know, why not tell us how much less? Instead of 300 yards, are we talking 30? 3?
    • by dl748 (570930) on Saturday December 10, 2005 @11:29AM (#14228552)
      Actually, this is wrong. At one time, I had to talk with upper 911 officials about GPS software. They can only get less than 300 yards if they are in a BIG city, hence more towers to use for triangulation. This fails as you move to say, a rural area (aka driving in the country) or even driving on a major highway going from city to city. In most cases they can't even do triangulation, worst case they can get 1-2 strips of area that could be up to 10 miles in area, less worse, they only get 2 points which are up to 10 miles apart. Lets not even mention if you go into a tunnel, or even a big building, where signal strength drops, or reflects off of objects, and the towers think you are somewhere else. These guys also told me, that if i really knew how 911 work, i'd be suprised that they could find anyone, even calling from a stationary phone. The frequency of dialing 911, and getting a dispatcher in a completely different county, that has no idea of the area, is astounding. You run into similar problems with GPS phones where you use satelittes, going into a building with metal roof, putting your phone in your car, if your car rolls over, you are screwed on GPS.
      • Big cities actually make it harder to triangulate. Not only is it harder to get a GPS fix in a skyscraper canyon (if your phone uses GPS), it does weird things to RF as well (causing bounces).

        Suburbia is a lot easier to deal with than a big city.
        • True to a point, big cities, have a lot more towers, make it so much easier, if you have 10 towers that fix on a point, and 4 that dont, you still have a more accurate location, than say 1-2 on the highway/rural area.
      • by jafiwam (310805) on Saturday December 10, 2005 @12:55PM (#14228969) Homepage Journal
        You are mixing two different types of areas there.

        The land-line mixups are poor implementation or upkeep of the database (think reverse DNS) that the phone switch operators are supposed to be keeping.

        Some tech somewhere needs to understand the phone routing and add the entries into the database. When a phone number is moved, it doesn't always get updated. Likewise, the geographic data used to determine the center called based on the location isn't always accurate.

        That's above and beyond the general PIA of databases in the first place.

        My part-time ISP employer is going through this as it tries to become a CLEC to cut dial-up line costs, so I have learned some of this firsthand. You ALWAYS need to tell dispatch WHERE you are first, clearly and as accurately as you can. Don't depend on them knowing where you are.
  • Does it mean that the police can track any criminal as long as his cell phone is turned on?? One more reason for not having a cell phone, or rather having one but no phone number
    • by ZeroExistenZ (721849) on Saturday December 10, 2005 @08:41AM (#14227902)

      In Belgium, they recently sent a SMS to all people wich a cellphone within a certain range to investigatigate a crime which happened at a gasstation, searching for witnesses. (which also raised alot of privacy questions.)

      So even not just criminals I suspect, but just needing a motivation to get the data from the providers, which do have these access logs. I don't know the exact protocol used in GSMs, but when you turn on your phone it tries to connect to your provider. And tries to keeps that 'connention'. (fe. if you have roaming, and you cross the border, you get welcomed with an SMS from the new network you're connected to.)

      • they recently sent a SMS to all people wich a cellphone within a certain range to investigatigate a crime which happened at a gasstation

        Can you imagine the SMSpam if the cops broadcast requests for information for every crime in New York? And if they don't do it for all crimes, then how long until people start accusing them of racism/favoritism/elitism because they SMspammed for this crime but not for that one?

    • Does it mean that the police can track any criminal as long as his cell phone is turned on?? One more reason for not having a cell phone, or rather having one but no phone number

      If you're resisting arrest, then yeah, you probably won't want to carry your cell-phone. But if you're an average day joe, does it really matter? They'll need a lot more evidence then you were in the area to get a conviction.
      • by Anonymous Coward
        Do they? In Houston, the crime lab basically fabricated evidence in several departments: dna, ballistics, maybe even a few others. People got up on the stand and testified about procedures that were never performed. Who knows, maybe some little girl will get raped and you'll be the only cellphone toting person in the area at the time. They'll ask you for a semen sample, and you'll give it to them knowing that you're fully innocent and have nothing to worry about, but surprise surprise, it just happens t
        • by Anonymous Coward
          you'll be the only cellphone toting person in the area at the time.

          Yeah, and an asteroid might also fall on your head and kill you.

          What you're talking about is extremely rare and unlikely event that is so improbable that it's lunacy to worry about it.

          Get on with your lives, people!

    • 300 yards...take into account that's THREE football fields.

      In a city like Chicago, that's a lot of ground to cover.
      • 300 yards...take into account that's THREE football fields

        Especially considering that the Detroit Lions defensive squads can't track a football over a fraction of that distance.

        Sorry.... sorry....

    • SO TURN YOUR PHONE OFF.
    • Yes - they can turn the microphone on remotely and listen to what you and your jailmates are talking about too - same as with any other phone...
      • by Anonymous Coward
        Not true for GSM. In order to turn on the microphone, you have to send the phone a setup message after its been assigned to a traffic channel. This also causes the mobile to enter the alerting state, which is when the phone usually triggers its ringer. This is obviously not useful for surveillence. however, other protocols (CDMA, IDEN, etc) may allow the microphone to be enabled without causing the ringer to go off
  • by Chris Bradshaw (933608) on Saturday December 10, 2005 @08:40AM (#14227896)
    Below is a link to more info on which phones allow you to turn these features off, etc...

    http://www.spywareinfo.com/articles/cell_phones/ [spywareinfo.com]

    As a general rule, I always turn off the location settings on my phone. Sprint has had this feature enabled by default for the past 3 years, and it wasn't until recently that I learned I was broadcasting my whereabouts 24x7.

    • by spacefight (577141) on Saturday December 10, 2005 @08:45AM (#14227910)
      While you can turn this feature off, the cell phone providers can till track you as they own and control the network.
    • by matthew.thompson (44814) <matt.actuality@co@uk> on Saturday December 10, 2005 @08:47AM (#14227916) Journal
      This is something slightly different. All networks can triangulate signals to a degree - based on the antenna array that most networks use, signal strength, location of transmitter etc they don't need the phone to support anything.

      The E911 service is, I believe, an implementation of AGPS where the phone assists in tracking to get an even closer match.
      • As far as I know, triangulation isn't normally used for E911. For a given system, either the phones have built in GPS which they transmit to the system, or the system uses TDOA (Time Difference of Arrival) location finding, which is much more accurate than fixed-antenna direction finding.

        Presumably one can defeat the GPS-based systems. Defeating the TDOA system would be much harder, and would involve going to locations where signal bounce (or multipath) gave erroneous TDOA readings.
    • That turns off the GPS tracking. However the cell company can still figure out roughly where you are, because they know which tower your phone is talking to. It's less accurate, but still possible.
      • Furthermore, they pretty much have to keep track of some history of which towers your phone has been talking to, in order to make efficient use of their resources. E.g., where to direct calls to when someone calls your cell phone. So it's not a matter of getting the phone companies not to keep track of this information. It has to be a legal thing where the government can only get the information if there is probable cause, just as with other kinds of search warrants.
        • i have a pay as you go service and i know when i request call logs, they've told me that they don't keep it for pay as you go customers. does anyone know anything about this? I still have the same phone from five years ago so i don't remember the procedure, but when i bought my phone, i bought the phone versus a phone and a plan then i bought some pay as you go vouchers, i don't remember my name being on anything...i could be wrong. I use a well known carrier in canada.
    • E911 (Score:3, Informative)

      by Savage-Rabbit (308260)
      As a general rule, I always turn off the location settings on my phone.

      That will help but it won't solve the problem even if you manage to turn out any kind of E911 [wikipedia.org] related GPS system (I am assuming that is what you are talking about) that may be built into your mobile phone. The thing is that every time that you use the phone your service provider can still track your location since they know which GSM cell you are in and they can even roughly position you within the cell without ever retrieving any locat
  • Patriot Act (Score:5, Insightful)

    by headkase (533448) on Saturday December 10, 2005 @08:40AM (#14227897)
    You know, when the police don't need warrents for searches your country is called a police state. On a related note, nice to see the patriot[sic] act extended for another four years.
    • What exactly is the problem with allowing the police to use cellphone tracking with probable cause? It's only the same standard required before they get a search warrant, and still a few steps short of your oh-so-precisely-defined poilce state.
      • if you have probable cause you can get a warrant, the OP was complaining about searches not requiring a warrant
    • There is no 'Patriot' act. There is a USAPATRIOT act. It is a 'Patriot' act about as much as it is a 'U SAP A RIOT' act.
    • Re:Patriot Act (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Curunir_wolf (588405)
      Yea, I mean, WTF is up with this?

      three federal judges have denied prosecutors the right to get cellphone tracking information from wireless companies without first showing "probable cause" to believe that a crime has been or is being committed.

      What have the other judges been doing? They just allow this kind of tracking for no reason, or what?

      Cop: "Judge, we want to track these guys by their cell phone."
      Judge: "Oh, have they committed a crime?"
      Cop: "Well, no, not that I'm aware of."
      Judge: "Ah. B

  • by joepeg (87984)
    Not totally familiar with cellular technology...
    How different is this from GPS? And is this a cheaper alternative that could be provided for cell phone users wanting GPS on their cell phones?
    • This is not GPS, this is your cell-phone provider tracking where you are, down to a resolution most likely more detailed than 300 yards. This is the police wanting details of where you are without a very important reason.
    • Almost all newer model LG phones come with a rudimentary GPS unit in them. Some models (5550) even allow you to see your co-ordinates. I wouldn't be surprised if this becomes more common, why build up a whole new tracking infrastructure when a proven one already exists.
  • by geoffrobinson (109879) on Saturday December 10, 2005 @08:41AM (#14227903) Homepage
    That info could also clear you of a crime.
    • Don't worry, the first time someone tries to use it as a defense, the prosecutor will claim that they gave the cellphone to a friend to use as an alibi.
    • True. Bear in mind that this kind of system proves where your phone was - not necessarily where you were.

      I know of at least one case where positioning information from a mobile has helped to clear someone, that of Damilola Taylor [bbc.co.uk]. Four youngsters were accused of murdering an 11-year-old boy. A mobile belonging to one of the defendants was used two miles from the scene of the crime, seven minutes beforehand, and it seemed there was no way he could have covered the distance quickly enough. (It later transpir

    • BUT.. if you were falsely accused of something, would a defense attorney have equal access to this type of evidence?

      And if it were, how easy would it be (legally) for this type of information to be used for civil cases? Why can I easily see a situation where someone is caught selling pirated DVDs at a flea market, and the MPAA subpoena's phone records of anyone who was in that area..

  • by Prototerm (762512) on Saturday December 10, 2005 @08:46AM (#14227914)
    We can't have people's civil rights get in the way of law enforcement. We need to change the law to keep the courts out of this. The courts have no right getting involved in these matters.

    *That'll* fix those Satanic, Evolution-loving, Commie Terrorists!

    (/tongue in cheek)

    There, I believe I've insulted enough Conservatives for one day. I'll go now.
  • by Chaffar (670874) on Saturday December 10, 2005 @08:47AM (#14227918)
    "In recent years, law enforcement officials have turned to cellular technology as a tool for easily and secretly monitoring the movements of suspects as they occur. But this kind of surveillance - which investigators have been able to conduct with easily obtained court orders - has now come under tougher legal scrutiny."

    In the last four months, three federal judges have denied prosecutors the right to get cellphone tracking information

    So if I got this right, in recent years our rights were outright ignored, all this while in the name of the fight against terror even more legislation hindering our rights were regularly called for. And now I'm supposed to feel better because of THREE recents cases where judges actually did their jobs? Dunno, I don't have A.D.D, I'm lucid enough to see a situation of "three steps back, one step forward" when I see one.

    • I keep hearing that the terrorists want to take out freedom, but the only people who are taking our freedom are the legislative and executive branches of Gov., while the judicial just aids and abets. And in the meantime, our boys are dying overseas "fighting for freedome".

      A choice I'm willing to take is to have our government protect out freedoms and I'll just take whatever comes from the terrorists. If our freedoms are going to be taken away, what's the point anymore?

    • So if I got this right, in recent years our rights were outright ignored, all this while in the name of the fight against terror even more legislation hindering our rights were regularly called for.

      With there being little to no evidence that this increase in legislation will actually do anything to make terrorism less likely. Maybe rights hindering legislation isn't the best way to address the issue in the first place, even if it is maybe it isn't the general public who should be having their rights hinde
  • by DumbSwede (521261) <slashdotbin@hotmail.com> on Saturday December 10, 2005 @08:47AM (#14227920) Homepage Journal
    When I see "Cell Phone Tracking" I can't help but think of Elmer Fud saying, "Be wery wery quite. I'm tracking cell phones. He, he, he"
  • by reddish (646830) on Saturday December 10, 2005 @08:52AM (#14227941) Homepage

    'Cellular operators like Verizon Wireless and Cingular Wireless know, within about 300 yards, the location of their subscribers whenever a phone is turned on.'

    They may be able to track the location of the telephone, or the SIM card,/b> but not the subscriber.

    A different thing alltogether - if you think about it. This cannot be used to locate a suspect on a crime scene, only her phone.

    • You realize you can take your cellphone with you, right? In fact, you'd be surprised how many people do just that!
    • (I can't believe nobody's said this already...)

      Remember those Star Trek episodes (TNG onward) where someone's trying to get off the ship or hide or something, and they leave their communicator on the ground, or in their quarters.

      Funny how people say Star Trek's technology is becoming reality, when really, it's limitations are too.
    • A different thing alltogether - if you think about it. This cannot be used to locate a suspect on a crime scene, only her phone.

      Actually, it would be a phone. Just because it is the subscribers simcard doesn't necessarily make it her phone. :)

  • Not too ambiguous (Score:5, Insightful)

    by unknownideal (881232) on Saturday December 10, 2005 @09:02AM (#14227969)
    "If I'm on an investigation and I need to know where somebody is located who might be committing a crime . . ."

    I don't see what everyone's worried about. They just want to track anyone who might be commiting a crime.
    • Hmm, never heard of voice analysis have you? You can turn the microphone on, listen to everything going on around the phone and identify the speakers.
      • Re:Not too ambiguous (Score:3, Informative)

        by jacksonj04 (800021)
        You can't remotely enable a phone's microphone using standard GSM. The phone would need to have a specific command code to remotely enable the microphone, and there is no concievable value in such a feature.

        Basically (The following is for UK, ymmv), when you ring someone your phone negotiates with the network, establishes a voice channel to dial the number and *then* turns on your microphone so background noises don't interfere with dialing tones. When people ring you, your phone may turn the microphone on
        • when you ring someone your phone negotiates with the network, establishes a voice channel to dial the number and *then* turns on your microphone so background noises don't interfere with dialing tones

          Why the hell would a digital cell phone standard use dialing tones to dial a number in this day and age? please tell me that gsm can say "connect to: 234-5678".

        • when you ring someone your phone negotiates with the network, establishes a voice channel to dial the number and *then* turns on your microphone

          GSM is basically a stripped-down ISDN (D as in 'digital'). All handshaking is done digitally.

        • In USA/Canada, all phone systems can be tapped remotely, including cell phones. In the UK, it can most probably be done too, considering that the UK Gov puts cameras on every street corner, I won't consider a UK cell phone to be private...

          They have the right to do anything that we are unable to prevent them from doing - Catch 22.
      • Yeah, because everyone is a potential criminal, especially everyone standing in the vicinity of a potential criminal.
    • Most police forces use it to track the caller - not the criminal (so theyu can get a location to send a unit to without having to spend lots of time trying to find out where the caller thinks they are)

      However, you'd be surprised how many 911 (999 calls here in the UK) where someone will make an emergency call to say "haha stupid coppers, we're dealing drugs, and you can't get us". When mobile phone location tech gets good enough to determine the exact location.. I'd love to see the faces of the callers when
  • Search warrants? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by aussie_a (778472) on Saturday December 10, 2005 @09:04AM (#14227976) Journal
    Shouldn't they need a search warrant (that requires probable cause) to get any of my information from the phone company? It mentions a warrant of some kind was needed. Shouldn't probable cause be required for all warrants? Want to search my home? The police need probable cause. Want to search my bank records, I'd like to hope you need probable cause. Want to find out who I've rung up? I hope you need probable cause. Want to follow me, I'd hope you need probable cause.

    If I'm on an investigation and I need to know where somebody is located who might be committing a crime, or, worse, might have a hostage, real-time knowledge of where this person is could be a matter of life or death."

    Let's pretend he doesn't have a phone. Don't you need probable cause to search through his belongings (home/work-place/car)? Tough luck mate. But you can't just screw people over in the name of national security. Well, at least you couldn't.....

    corroborating their whereabouts with witness accounts

    Well get probable cause. Sheeesh. Or ask the person to give the police permission to look at his phone record location.

    or helping build a case for a wiretap on the phone

    Wait, you want to be able to access someone's phone records willy-nilly, so you can build up a case to access their phone records even more? Am I the only one to think this is crazy?

    And the government is not required to report publicly when it makes such requests.

    Now that's scary. I can understand them wanting to keep it quiet at the time it's happening, but come on. A week, or at most a month, should be sufficient time to no longer be crucial, especially if you're using it to obtain a hostage or arrest them. The only reason to keep it secret indefinitely is so you can to pull the wool over people's eyes as you widdle away their civil liberties.

    Prosecutors, while acknowledging that they have to get a court order before obtaining real-time cell-site data, argue that the relevant standard is found in a 1994 amendment to the 1986 Stored Communications Act, a law that governs some aspects of cellphone surveillance.

    That's a joke. How could the congressmen in 1986 have any idea what sort of application and usage cell-phones would have 10 years in the future? They probably gave wide-powers to the police, because at the time, it wasn't possible (and perhaps not even thinkable) for them to use those powers. You can't blame them for not forseeing the future, and to claim they did and that the law should still be used is ridiculous. That's like claiming the right to bear arms in the constitution gives every citizen the right to have nuclear weapons. There was no way nuclear weapons were invisaged when America was formed.

    The standard calls for the government to show "specific and articulable facts" that demonstrate that the records sought are "relevant and material to an ongoing investigation" - a standard lower than the probable-cause hurdle.

    The language is very telling. "Oh it's just a necessity in our way. We don't need to worry about that." I believe perhaps the standard should be raised, especially with an opinion like that.

    Prosecutors in the recent cases also unsuccessfully argued that the expanded police powers under the USA Patriot Act could be read as allowing cellphone tracking under a standard lower than probable cause.

    God bless us. Every one. (Thankfully they have been unsuccessful, although is that 100% of the time? I don't think so.)

    In the digital era, what's on the envelope and what's inside of it, "have absolutely blurred," said Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a privacy advocacy group.

    And so the prosecution predictably wants it to be treated as if it were all on the envelope.

    And that makes it harder for courts to determine whether a certain digital surveillance method invokes Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches.
    • That's a joke. How could the congressmen in 1986 have any idea what sort of application and usage cell-phones would have 10 years in the future? They probably gave wide-powers to the police, because at the time, it wasn't possible (and perhaps not even thinkable) for them to use those powers. You can't blame them for not forseeing the future, and to claim they did and that the law should still be used is ridiculous. That's like claiming the right to bear arms in the constitution gives every citizen the righ
    • (1) You do not need a warrant to search every area.
      (2) You do generally need probable cause to support a warrant.
      (3) Some searches do not require even probable cause. Heck, some searches just happen with no suspicion at all.

      Examples:

      You can search a car if you have probable cause, but you don't need a warrant.
      If you're impounding a car, you can search the whole thing, as long as you have a policy of doing so.
      If you're conducting an administrative inspection (say of a Nuclear Power Plant), you don't need a
      • "You can search a car if you have probable cause, but you don't need a warrant."
        Only if a police officer stops you while you are driving. They also must show cause and cannot search any area of the vehicle that the driver does not have access to ( possibly the trunk ).

        "If you're impounding a car, you can search the whole thing, as long as you have a policy of doing so."
        If the police have an item in their posession they have the right to search it.

        "If you're conducting an administrative inspection (say of a
    • Probable cause (PC) requires, I believe, 'fruits of crime'. Something tangible. A bashed-in skull, an expired license tag, ... In other words something has to have been done. It is not a preventative measure. I'd sure like the good guys looking after some one on a lower standard of proof, such as reasonable suspicion so no one gets hurt.
  • by pieterh (196118) on Saturday December 10, 2005 @09:17AM (#14228023) Homepage
    The European Commission and Parliament have done a deal which looks set to introduce a law that makes this kind of tracking a daily part of police work.

    The "Data Retention Directive" proposes tracking all mobile phone and Internet usage, and storing this for 2 years, and (worst) making it available to police and other parties (possibly commercial ones), without much regard to existing privacy laws.

    There is an FFII press release on this subject: http://wiki.ffii.de/DataRetPr051205En [wiki.ffii.de].

    The FFII and EDRI are fighting this in the Parliament, but the directive has been shoved through very brutally by the Council, led by the UK. Basically the bureaucrats of the Commission, unhindered by any European Constitution, are creating laws by stealth, and this Big Brother directive is symptomatic of a take over of the national legislative processes by an group of unelected, unaccountable officials.

    The UK Presidency had proposed a very brutal law, which went as far as requiring the logging of the MAC address of every computer connected to the Internet (yes, that blew me away too), and using the Good Cop/ Bad Cop approach, bullied the Parliament into accepting a "compromise" agreement that dropped all the references to terrorism, and added a bunch of waffle about human rights, but basically creates a pan-European database of every cellphone call, and every Internet communication. I've not yet had time to see whether TCP/IP end-points are also logged, but the original proposals definitely requested this.

    Europe is rapidly turning into a police state that makes the US look like a haven of freedom and civil rights. The rejection of the European Constitution by the French and Dutch voters, though a nicely symbolic act, have left a power vacuum into which the grey bureaucrats of the Commission have stepped.
  • by King_TJ (85913) on Saturday December 10, 2005 @09:45AM (#14228117) Journal
    What I'm thinking of here are all of the businesses that make use of cellphone GPS tracking as part of their normal operation. (EG. Most courier services in my area issue drivers Nextel 2-way radio/phones and track their location constantly via the phone's GPS system. The results are dumped into some routing software that dispatch uses to figure out who is closest to a customer calling in to have a delivery picked up.)

    Even if legislation is written up that specifically prevents govt. and police from obtaining this type of info from the *cellular companies* without a warrant, would the same apply if they wanted it from a private business?
    • Even if legislation is written up that specifically prevents govt. and police from obtaining this type of info from the *cellular companies* without a warrant, would the same apply if they wanted it from a private business?

      While somewhat of a grey area, yes, they can. That's an important point. The police are always free to ASK nicely for any information they want as long as the person they ask doesn't have to commit a crime in order to answer them. They are even free to ask the suspect (and there are a

  • by zappepcs (820751) on Saturday December 10, 2005 @09:52AM (#14228155) Journal
    As people have pointed out, there are good and bad reasons that location information might be used. But it applies to tons of other things too. Say you get a WiFi capable PDA or music player, the same location information is available from those networks. Your WiFi connected laptop is also trackable, as is your pager, and soon, also your new car.

    There will be those that learn to foil such tracking attempts, and so, in the end, the only people that can't be tracked are the people that should be.... which again means lots of money spent for little or no value... EXCEPT that Google and others will take advantage of that and offer us services and goods for free if we listen to the location based advertising. Yes, as you drive past the McD's your cell phone will ring with an SMS messsage containing a 15 percent off coupon for a happy meal if you buy in the next 11 minutes.

    That is the reason that location tracking will continue to grow... not because of the police.
  • One of the last things keeping us from becoming a police state.
    • by TheLink (130905) on Saturday December 10, 2005 @11:12AM (#14228489) Journal
      People should stop focusing on the _last_ things keeping them from becoming a police state, and start focusing on the _first_ things.

      Starting with very dubious electronic voting machines and who you vote as leaders.

      Once you get too many of the wrong people in power, they can change all that stuff very quickly. Look at the Patriot Act, and all the recent crappy laws with dangerous long term consequences.

      If citizens keep sticking their heads in the sand (or erm troughs of junk food?), the leaders can basically do what they want with impunity.

      Even if you don't allow tracking now, Mr Evil Dictator can always turn it back on, once he's in power.

      So the main thing is to never allow Mr Evil Dictator a chance to get power in the first place.

      It is quite scary and sad that history has proven that many people will actually be willing to listen to some evil person and give him the power. These people will willingly kill anybody - even their relatives or parents/children just because "it's their job" or the supreme leader told them to.
      • Never said i wasnt fighting to keep what we have, it was just a comment that 'probable cause' is one of the few things we havent lost to date, as our constitution gets shredded around us.

        However one can debate if its really a farce at this stage of the game, now that the patriot act pretty much did away with it in cases of 'national security'. ( whatever that means )
  • You can already track the location of a cellphone. There are many service providers but the one I use is http://www.fleetonline.net/ [fleetonline.net] You do need one-time physical access to a cellphone you want to track but other than that it's just a matter of paying a small fee per location-request. Accuracy depends on geographical factors but it's generally pretty good.
  • GOP leaders told Bush that his hardcore push to renew the more onerous provisions of the act could further alienate conservatives still mad at the President from his botched attempt to nominate White House Counsel Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court. [capitolhillblue.com]

    "I don't give a goddamn," Bush retorted. "I'm the President and the Commander-in-Chief. Do it my way."

    "Mr. President," one aide in the meeting said. "There is a valid case that the provisions in this law undermine the Constitution."

    "Stop throwing the C

  • More Like 300 Inches (Score:2, Informative)

    by RedLion (100769)
    300 yards? I'm one of the guys that sets up and tweaks the E911 Wireless Location System for Cingular & T-Mobile. I can tell you for a fact that once I get the network properly honed, the system will determine the lat/long to within about 300 inches of the 911 caller's handset.
    • Correct - with TDOA/FDOA, you can ideally get the geolocation a lot tighter than with just knowing the cell tower sector, but "about 300 yards" may be all you can hope for in a dense multipath environment (lots of buildings, Nissan Armadas, etc.)
  • ...is using this to track kidnapped people. Unless this technology is being used to protect people directly, it is just a telescreen (from 1984).
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I'm posting anonymously for obvious reasons.

    I would love to be able to track the location of my 15 year old daughter's cell phone. She is bipolar and chemical dependent. We can not keep an eye on her 24 hours a day and occassionally she simply disappears. Yes, we are trying to get her into a residential treatment program, but finding something that deals with her problems (dual diagnosis) and is covered by our insurance is proving difficult. If I had unlimited funds I would place her in the best place p
  • Cell Phone Numbers Research [locatecell.com]

    For a fee of from $65 to $110, depending on the service requrested, they will give you the name and address of who owns a particular cell phone, the cell phone(s) owned by any particular person, or the telephone numbers called from any particular cell phone.

  • ...the rough location of the PHONE the subscriber owns. My phone is usually in my wife's Jeep because I never use it. I'm not though. :)
  • Then Jack Bauer would be featuring in "4" instead of "24".

    Man, the technobabble in that show annoys me !
  • I tried to turn off the tracking features in my phone and a text message popped up:
    lol i'm not tracking you
  • Maybe I'm crazy, and I know this is about not getting a search warrant, but the technology itself I think is damn great. Provided it cannot be used by the general public, I'd be quite happy for my (phone's) location to be known.

    For example, a girl in my halls, she was standing outside talking on her phone, three guys came along, hit her in the face, stole the phone. The police turned up literally 5 mins after we called them. They said they could drive around and see if they could see them. We called her p

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