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German Politician Demonstrates Extent of Cellphone Location Tracking 328

Posted by Soulskill
from the validating-stallman dept.
frnic writes "Deutsche Telekom is tracking its customers' locations and saving the information: '.... as a German Green party politician, Malte Spitz, recently learned, we are already continually being tracked whether we volunteer to be or not. Cellphone companies do not typically divulge how much information they collect, so Mr. Spitz went to court to find out exactly what his cellphone company, Deutsche Telekom, knew about his whereabouts. The results were astounding. In a six-month period — from Aug 31, 2009, to Feb. 28, 2010, Deutsche Telekom had recorded and saved his longitude and latitude coordinates more than 35,000 times. It traced him from a train on the way to Erlangen at the start through to that last night, when he was home in Berlin. Mr. Spitz has provided a rare glimpse — an unprecedented one, privacy experts say — of what is being collected as we walk around with our phones."
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German Politician Demonstrates Extent of Cellphone Location Tracking

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  • Christ ... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ScrewMaster (602015) * on Saturday March 26, 2011 @02:11PM (#35623418)
    And they were worried about Google?!!!
    • Re:Christ ... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by jhoegl (638955) on Saturday March 26, 2011 @02:15PM (#35623448)
      Should we be surprised?
      Our Grocery stores track what we purchase, and everyone said "oh well, cheaper prices" (BS But okay).
      Our ISPs track our information, even hijack DNS error pages now. Everyone said "Oh well, they are a business"
      Now this, and I guarantee it will be "Oh well, they are a business that needs to make money"

      Consumers let this happen.
      • Re:Christ ... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by jhoegl (638955) on Saturday March 26, 2011 @02:18PM (#35623470)
        Oh, and I should have stated, that I know this is a story for Germany, but is it really a stretch to think phone companies arent doing this all over the world, including USA?
        • Duh... (Score:3, Informative)

          by camg188 (932324)
          Because that's how cell phones work. Cell phone companies must know where you are so that they can route your calls and data to the nearest cell phone tower.

          In other shocking news... your landline provider, cable provider and isp know where you live. OMG!
          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward

            Because that's how cell phones work. Cell phone companies must know where you are so that they can route your calls and data to the nearest cell phone tower.

            And save it for six months?
            If I recall correctly, they have to do it because of the european data retention directive.

            • If not that, then it may simply be that organizations err on the side of caution with data retention policies.

              I don't think the real point here is that there's some abuse by mobile phone services, or that this was a secret. The point is that this is a new phenomenon, with implications most people haven't considered.

              • by LuYu (519260)

                The point is that this is a new phenomenon, with implications most people haven't considered.

                As I imagine that is the purpose of Slashdot and as I started reading this discussion with that in mind, what would be a good solution to this problem?

                Does everyone have to become a phreaker to protect their privacy? Would new laws help? How could an individual "stick it to the man" (especially if that "man" were a hundred billion dollar behemoth like AT&T)? Could a social practice, such as hundreds of people buying unlimited plans and swapping phones permanently or frequently, mitigate the effect

                • I have been wondering this since I read RMS does not carry a cellphone. Do we need another creative visionary to come up with a completely unanticipated solution to this problem?

                  I used to think of RMS as an heroic visionary, but I've gradually lost respect for him. That quote from him, calling cell phones the perfect tool for a Stalin, was breathtakingly out of touch with reality.

                  Look at what has been going on in the Middle East, particularly Egypt. People organized mass demonstrations with mobile phones and Facebook, which is notorious for its complete lack of respect for individual privacy. Security forces could not contain a mass movement. This is not unprecedented. Popular revo

                  • by AmiMoJo (196126)

                    The problem with your Middle Eastern examples is that they are fringe situations. Countries transitioning to democracy. For us the concern is more about the rights and privacy of individuals and small groups than about the population in general.

                    One of the basic tenets of democracy is that people can say controversial things without fear of reprisal. In the UK surveillance of people's movements has been used to suppress their right to speak freely and protest by the police harassing them. The police and the

            • There are some mobile companies which have location dependent billing (e.g. use of your phone is free if you are in your home or close). This means that location becomes a legitimate part of billing data. The equipment manufacturers have to include the possibility of gathering it. For the bills of most customers on most networks this data isn't used, but you can never tell when someone from the marketing department is going to start such a special offer. Also you can never tell when some customer is g

          • Re:Duh... (Score:4, Insightful)

            by nedlohs (1335013) on Saturday March 26, 2011 @02:45PM (#35623730)

            That they know isn't the issue. That they keep the data for longer than they need to route your calls and data is the issue.

            They have no* need to know where your phone was 2 hours ago, let alone last Tuesday, or 4 months ago.

            * Well for provisioning purposes they likely want to know usage rates on a location/time basis - but that can be aggregate data.

          • Cell phone companies must know where you are so that they can route your calls and data to the nearest cell phone tower.

            But they don't need to keep that data.
          • Because that's how cell phones work. Cell phone companies must know where you are so that they can route your calls and data to the nearest cell phone tower.

            But they don't need to know where you've been for the last six months.

            • by camg188 (932324)
              They at least need to retain your location when you use your phone for customer billing, taxing, and inter-carrier billing. The taxing and inter-carrier data could possibly be anonymized, but I would expect that data would still be retained by the phone companies to cover their asses. Cell phone usage is taxed at the federal, state and city level (in the US) and inter-carrier charges/reciprocating agreements add up to big bucks, so I can understand why they might be hesitant to toss out data, particularly
              • by zill (1690130)
                billing data != location data

                Billing data is just 2 phone numbers and the duration of the call. Nothing more. I don't see how knowing your precise geographical location can make the taxation easier.
                • billing data != location data

                  Billing data is just 2 phone numbers and the duration of the call. Nothing more. I don't see how knowing your precise geographical location can make the taxation easier.

                  Roaming charges. [wikipedia.org]
                  As long as roaming charges exist, they have an excuse to track your location "because of the billing".

          • Re:Duh... (Score:5, Insightful)

            by icebraining (1313345) on Saturday March 26, 2011 @02:48PM (#35623766) Homepage

            The problem is not that they know were you are, is that they know where you were. They definitively don't need six months of logs of your location to route your calls.

          • by rolfwind (528248)

            No, that's not how it works - otherwise GPS and tower tracking wouldn't be such relatively new features to cell phones if it was that essential.

            They can go by signal strength, I'm pretty sure they still do so in a handoff.

        • From TFA:

          In the United States, telecommunication companies do not have to report precisely what material they collect, said Kevin Bankston, a lawyer at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, who specializes in privacy. He added that based on court cases he could say that “they store more of it and it is becoming more precise.”

          “Phones have become a necessary part of modern life,” he said, objecting to the idea that “you have to hand over your personal privacy to be part of the 21st century.”

          In the United States, there are law enforcement and safety reasons for cellphone companies being encouraged to keep track of its customers. Both the F.B.I. and the Drug Enforcement Administration have used cellphone records to identify suspects and make arrests.

          If the information is valuable to law enforcement, it could be lucrative for marketers. The major American cellphone providers declined to explain what exactly they collect and what they use it for.

          Verizon, for example, declined to elaborate other than to point to its privacy policy, which includes: “Information such as call records, service usage, traffic data,” the statement in part reads, may be used for “marketing to you based on your use of the products and services you already have, subject to any restrictions required by law.”

          AT&T, for example, works with a company, Sense Networks, that uses anonymous location information “to better understand aggregate human activity.” One product, CitySense, makes recommendations about local nightlife to customers who choose to participate based on their cellphone usage. (Many smartphone apps already on the market are based on location but that’s with the consent of the user and through GPS, not the cellphone company’s records.)

        • by KDR_11k (778916)

          Deutsche Telekom is the parent company of T-Mobile USA. And Europe has stricter privacy laws than the US.

        • by pamar (538061)

          In the most recent Berlusconi trial [worldcrunch.com] - here in Italy - the prosecution is working not just on the actual recording of the voice conversation over cellular phones, but the case rests at least in part on the fact that a minor spent one or more nights inside Berlusconi's villa... as demonstrated by checking what cellular repeater was covering the minor's cellphone over the night.

          And this had been under scrutiny for at least six months.

      • by xororand (860319)

        Grocery tracking can still be migitated easily. Just pay with cash as often as possible and do not accept surveillance cards ("Paypack", and whatever they are called.)

        ISP tracking is a bit tougher but there are possible countermeasures to make it a less severe problem. For instance, one could write software that simulates an actual user who browses the web and pursues other online activity 24/7. This will not hide your actual activity but it gets lost in a stream of random noise.

        • Re:Christ ... (Score:4, Insightful)

          by somersault (912633) on Saturday March 26, 2011 @02:25PM (#35623542) Homepage Journal

          Umm.. does it really upset you that much that they know how often you buy bread, and what brand of toilet paper you prefer? Why would you even think about caring about that, let alone actually get paranoid about it?

          • Re:Christ ... (Score:5, Insightful)

            by sqrt(2) (786011) on Saturday March 26, 2011 @02:34PM (#35623622) Journal

            What if they share that info with insurance companies, and you end up paying more for life or car insurance because they flag you for buying alcohol in an amount they consider excessive? Or condoms, or pregnancy tests.

            • What if they share that info with insurance companies, and you end up paying more for life or car insurance because they flag you for buying alcohol in an amount they consider excessive? Or condoms, or pregnancy tests.

              If that information was passed without consent, yes, it would be sinister. But what if you willingly allowed the information to be passed to your insurer? Then the insurer could rely on positive selection (as opposed to adverse selection of people who didn't consent) as well as monitoring to give you a better rate.

              • Re:Christ ... (Score:5, Insightful)

                by Aristos Mazer (181252) on Saturday March 26, 2011 @02:50PM (#35623782)

                > Then the insurer could rely on positive selection (as opposed to adverse selection of people who didn't consent) as well as monitoring to give you a better rate.

                Nope. If you allow positive selection for those who volunteer, that implies negative selection for anyone who refuses to volunteer, and it would be a short hop from there to assume anyone refusing to share has something to hide. Insuance companies have no "presumption of innocence" requirement.

                You have to ban all tracking of such data to avoid sinister.

                • > Then the insurer could rely on positive selection (as opposed to adverse selection of people who didn't consent) as well as monitoring to give you a better rate.

                  Nope. If you allow positive selection for those who volunteer, that implies negative selection for anyone who refuses to volunteer, and it would be a short hop from there to assume anyone refusing to share has something to hide.

                  It's not really different, you know, adverse/positive selection. Perhaps differential selection would be a better term.

              • by sqrt(2) (786011)

                Any info your insurance company gets will only be used to make you pay more, I guarantee it. You're not going to get any hand outs or kindness from that industry. Them having more information about you can only work against you, it's like talking to police; even when you're 100% innocent it benefits you to never cooperate.

                • I've talked to the Police a few times over the years, and while you do get your share of douches, some of them are nice enough. They're just human beings too.

      • Should we be surprised?

        Our Grocery stores track what we purchase, and everyone said "oh well, cheaper prices" (BS But okay).

        Our ISPs track our information, even hijack DNS error pages now. Everyone said "Oh well, they are a business"

        Now this, and I guarantee it will be "Oh well, they are a business that needs to make money"

        Consumers let this happen.

        Well, yeah, they let it happen because they can see the use of collecting that info and therefore consent to it. The real question is whether this information is sent to other organisations, such as the government? I wonder how long it will take before someone's movements are tracked and used for police investigations. Perhaps it's already occurred.

      • Our Grocery stores track what we purchase

        And a bunch of stuff we don't purchase... in all the grocery store I know about, you don't need the "loyalty" card... just a phone number that is associated with one. Nobody said it had to be your number. That said, I do have loyalty cards linked to my phone number, and I was recently surprised when I got a bunch of coupons, including one for straight up $6.00 worth of goods... for a store I almost never go to, since it is inconvenient. Turns out my kid in col
      • by LuYu (519260)

        Should we be surprised?

        Our Grocery stores track what we purchase, and everyone said "oh well, cheaper prices" (BS But okay).

        Our ISPs track our information, even hijack DNS error pages now. Everyone said "Oh well, they are a business"

        Now this, and I guarantee it will be "Oh well, they are a business that needs to make money"

        I think there is a difference between the tracking the grocery store is doing and the tracking a phone company is doing. At a grocery store, it is completely voluntary. Customers do not have to have tracking numbers (I, for one, have never had one). If they do choose to have their purchases tracked, they are "paid" for it in discounts. And that tracking is limited to what the customers purchased and perhaps the store they purchased it in.

        Cellphones, on the other hand, are tracking your physical locat

      • by hairyfeet (841228)

        Uhhh...dude? the story is bullshit. if you read TFA (I know, but I got bored) it says plainly down about halfway past the "ZOMG!" headline, and I quote "Mr. Spitz's information, Mr. Blaze pointed out, was not based on those frequent updates, but on how often Mr. Spitz checked his e-mail". emphasis mine.

        So in this case the answer is simple: The guy has a smartphone with some app that checks his email every five minutes (racking up some sweet charges too I bet) and THAT is what is being logged. Well duh, you

    • by MoonBuggy (611105)

      The odd thing is, we have a reason to expect Google to track us - collecting and sorting information is their business model, after all. This, on the other hand, is straight out of left field; how does it benefit the phone companies to spend time, money and storage space tracking the whereabouts of individual customers? At best, I can only imagine aggregate data being useful for planning new cell tower sites.

      • by he-sk (103163)

        Required by current EU data retention laws... which are being challenged and hopefully overturned, and soon.

    • by _Sprocket_ (42527)
      That crossed my mind. I had played with Latitude a bit with friends and family. But ultimately stopped using it over the concern of what kind of data trail I'm volunteering. Granted - I always knew that mobiles are essentially tracking devices anyway. The question is whether generating additional copies of a set of personal data is worth the risk for what I get out of it. I don't think it is; at least not in most cases.
  • RMS (Score:5, Interesting)

    by xororand (860319) on Saturday March 26, 2011 @02:15PM (#35623444)

    "I don't have a cell phone. I won't carry a cell phone. It's Stalin's dream. Cell phones are tools of Big Brother. I'm not going to carry a tracking device that records where I go all the time, and I'm not going to carry a surveillance device that can be turned on to eavesdrop."

    • You can just turn it off.

      A cell phone is a very useful tool, just keep it turned off and use it only in an emergency and it could save your life with none of the tin foil hat stuff getting in the way.

      • That's true but not very relevant. If you want to use a cell phone as an emergency notification device, you can do that without being tracked. If you want to use it as a phone, in the way that almost everybody in the whole world does -- including even many developing countries -- then you can be tracked. And most likely are being tracked. Even people who don't consider this a problem at least have to admit that this is fairly spectacular.

        Okay. Yes, you can avoid being monitored by either turning off the pho

        • by cyn1c77 (928549)

          And it works even if everybody turns off his or her phone while they're buying drugs or robbing banks. And this isn't some crazy hypothetical stuff, this data exists, you could do this right now for millions of people.

          This is not a new concept for real criminals.

          People who want to avoid surveillance carry a burn phone, only deal in cash, and don't have anything registered in their name or use multiple aliases.

          Sure, you are definitely providing the cell phone company with valuable data. But, if you really want to get stressed out, think about how you are providing your internet provider with valuable data every time you surf the internet, your credit card company with valuable data every time you buy something, and yo

          • Those are all issues. Calling them a necessary byproduct of a high standard of living is very vague.

            For some of them, collecting and storing the data is inherent to the process or the technology: For a non-cash financial transaction, you typically need to know who the participants are among other things; often you need to store that data for certain lengths of time. That's certainly trading anonymity for the convenience of being able to use a credit/debit card.

            The same argument can't be made for most other

          • by KDR_11k (778916)

            I don't think you can really get much useful evidence out of cellphone tracking for regular crimes like that. Bank robbing is fairly rare and the robber could just leave his phone at home while drug dealing doesn't worry the executive enough to warrant using cellphone data for it, never mind that the tracking resolution won't be enough to tell that somebody bought from a dealer instead of getting a pack of cigs from the kiosk across the street.

            It sounds terrible that all this data is being tracked but if yo

      • Re:RMS (Score:5, Informative)

        by Charliemopps (1157495) on Saturday March 26, 2011 @02:57PM (#35623828)
        They can turn the phone on remotely without your knowledge. The FBI does it routinely... so it's not tinfoil hat stuff, it's real world, documented proof type stuff.
      • If you turn it off, you will be unable to receive calls, some of which may be of an emergency nature.

        The solution to the potential privacy and political issues involved is to make it a felony for anyone, including phone company employees, and FBI and CIA agents, to retain more than a few seconds each week in any particular individuals life a record of the location at which that particular phone is and what voice or data it might be transmitting. If there is probable cause, then appropriate law enforcement

  • by EvilGiraffe (2014568) on Saturday March 26, 2011 @02:16PM (#35623458)
    to leave your cellphone turned off when you aren't using it.
    • by jhoegl (638955)
      I agree. I mean what is the point of having a cel phone except for the ability to get a hold of the user any time?

      O wait.
      • That's why you have a phone? I have it so that I can browse the web, and send/receive texts. When people actually phone me, I rarely choose to answer, because it's almost always inconvenient.

        • by Professr3 (670356)
          Same here - I almost never answer, because I don't like talking on the phone. It's an imprecise method of communication that allows you no time to think / double-check your responses.
        • Then there's always that one person who chooses to call you back instead of replying to a text.

          I never answer. Trying to train them - slowly.

    • Sure, just tell everyone: "Kindly drop me an e-mail 24 hours before giving me a call on my mobile phone". Oh .. wait ...
      • by Eudial (590661)

        I'm not giving them my email address. Who knows what sort of spam I'll get. It's much better to tell them to post letters a week in advance.

  • by he-sk (103163) on Saturday March 26, 2011 @02:25PM (#35623540)

    The German newspaper Die Zeit who was given access to this data has a visualization of his whereabouts for the 6 months. Press play and adjust speed with the slider to the right. The data is annotated with short reports of his day glimpsed from his Twitter account and blog.

    http://www.zeit.de/datenschutz/malte-spitz-vorratsdaten [www.zeit.de]

  • I have news! (Score:2, Informative)

    by sgt101 (120604)

    For a cell phone to work... it needs to know where you are !

    This is because the connection or the data packets need to be routed to a radio that can physically transmit them to you. That is the radio that defines the cell. The cell is in a place. The radio has to transmit the packets to you - which is a direction within the cell.

    For the billing to work... you need to keep records! Because.. the radios and the backhaul belong to lots of different people, all of whom need paying.

    Now ; how many criminals/terro

    • Re:I have news! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by garcia (6573) on Saturday March 26, 2011 @02:39PM (#35623674) Homepage

      1. You're right, at the time of the ping the system needs to know where your phone is. It does not need to have a 6 month+ history of where your phone has been.

      2. Billing does not need to keep your lat and long.

      3. Just because a handful of people have been tracked in this manner doesn't mean that the 6.7 billion others should be.

      4. No, we as customers tell the companies how they will operate and not the other way around. If you want to operate as a government sponsored monopoly (by using spectrum purchased from the people) then you get to follow OUR rules.

      • The 6 months is because that's the length of time you have to object to the bill.

      • I replied too quickly.

        1) They keep 6 months because that's how long you have to object to the bill.
        2) Billing isn't keeping the lat/long of the phone, it's keeping the lat/long of the cell site, otherwise, it wouldn't be a blob with a direction on the map, it would be a point with a radius. It's the cell site's lat+long and which antenna (direction) is seeing the phone.

    • You have lose. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by eddy (18759)
      Don't be retarded, there's no way they have to STORE your phone POSITION months and months back. I doubt they even have to store it at all for it to work. If it were merely information deduced from billing as in "you were somewhere in area X because you made a call through carrier Y which is only active there", that's another thing. That's not what this is. This is the systematic tracking of data beyond that which is necessary for the network to work.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      That is incorrect. The cell network does not need to know the location of the phone while it is not in use. The location updates improve the network efficiency and the call setup time though. Pagers necessarily worked without location tracking because pagers were passive devices. The network could first try to contact the phone where it was last seen when a call was in progress, and upon failing to make contact there, broadcast the call setup request. This functionality actually exists because cellphones do

    • It needs to know where you are *NOW* it fdoes not need to know where youw ere 5 minutes ago. Therefore saving the data is a no-no and a big privacy breach.
  • by SplashMyBandit (1543257) on Saturday March 26, 2011 @02:29PM (#35623570)
    Richard Stallman (of the Free Software Foundation) calls cellphones 'tracking devices' and the last time I heard him talk he refused to carry one. It can be useful if you think of cellphones in that way (they weren't designed as tracking devices, but they're certainly being used that way now).
  • by jd (1658) <.imipak. .at. .yahoo.com.> on Saturday March 26, 2011 @02:35PM (#35623636) Homepage Journal

    It's how the CIA were found kidnapping people in Italy. They'd been traced througout all of Europe by means of their cell-phones. This was public knowledge at the time of the Italian government complaints, it was public knowledge at the time that the police wanted easier access to reduce both governmental and non-governmental kidnaps, why the surprise now?

    I'm not keen on the idea, but damnit the CIA example does illustrate that it may be a necessary tool for protection against governmental abuses. I'd argue that if that line is accepted, then the information should be stored in a manner that prevents access outside of a lawful enquiry authorized by a recognized court or a lawful query by the monitored individual as per the European data protection standards. How you'd enforce that is difficult.

    • by rolfwind (528248)

      Just don't store the data for more than the next ping. They don't need to keep a record.

      If they want a record to see where to put more towers up, anonymize the data so it cannot be traced to any one person.

  • I'm tempted to create a startup company where we'll pick up your phone and park it wherever you're supposed to be (your office, etc), while you run off to wherever you really want to go; and at the same time give you a loaner-phone where we'd forward your calls to you.

    • by Geminii (954348)

      Or you could sell cheap pre-paid phones without requesting any form of ID.

      That doesn't seem to be an option in some countries - there's apparently a mandatory requirement to request and record ID on purchase of any cellular phone. I'm tempted to pay a bum twenty bucks to pick up my next phone for me. Or get together with twenty other people to make a bulk purchase under someone else's name.

      • and then you hit the anti dealer locks.
        some stores have a "get caught and you are FIRED" grade policy that you can not sell more than say 3 unactivated phones to a single person.

  • by cdrguru (88047) on Saturday March 26, 2011 @02:43PM (#35623714) Homepage

    OK, assume that it is a given that cell phone companies have this information. When someone is killed why do the police not simply pull the information for everyone that was within, say 500 feet, at the time of the murder? This would give them not only a potential suspect list but it would also give them a list of witnesses.

    Right now, if you kill someone and keep your mouth shut you stand only about a 20% chance of being caught and convicted. You can be sure that this weighs in on the decision to (a) carry a deadly force weapon and (b) use it perhaps indiscriminately. If murderers were, say 90% caught and convicted instead of only 20% the rather obnoxious murder rate in cities might drop. It is somewhere between 0.5 and 2 murders every single day in nearly every large city in the US.

    If this tool exists, it isn't being used by police. They don't have to get to pushy about it, but if they had a list of people that were in the area even if the murderer didn't have a cell phone on him at the time there is a high likelyhood that someone would have seen something.

    Why wouldn't a witness come forward? There is a powerful force to discourage witnesses from coming forward in cities - they even sell T-shirts saying "Stop Snitching". Nobody wants to be a witness because it means putting your life at risk. The way things stand (with a rate of 20% of murders being caught and convicted) the police cannot possibly protect witnesses and there is a strong incentive to make sure that no witness will ever speak out. Given only a 1 in 5 chance of being convicted of killing a witness there is no way to get witnesses to place their life on hold and their life at risk for the chance (much less than 20%) that the murderer will not be out on the street looking for revenge.

  • by echucker (570962) on Saturday March 26, 2011 @02:44PM (#35623722) Homepage
    http://www.zeit.de/digital/datenschutz/2011-03/data-protection-malte-spitz [www.zeit.de] Scroll down a bit in that article, and you can even pull a copy of the spreadsheet with location data.
  • Tracking a customer’s whereabouts is part and parcel of what phone companies do for a living. Every seven seconds or so, the phone company of someone with a working cellphone is determining the nearest tower, so as to most efficiently route calls. And for billing reasons, they track where the call is coming from and how long it has lasted.

    “At any given instant, a cell company has to know where you are; it is constantly registering with the tower with the strongest signal,” said Matthew Blaze, a professor of computer and information science at the University of Pennsylvania who has testified before Congress on the issue.

    Mr. Spitz’s information, Mr. Blaze pointed out, was not based on those frequent updates, but on how often Mr. Spitz checked his e-mail.

    So, each call record (CDR) comes with a "cell ID" so big meanie telco knows where were you and what network serviced you and thus how to bill you. They could save your cell registration as you move around, but they don't need that unless the police explicitly asks them to (legal requirements may vary), but this was not the case, so they didn't.

  • What interesting patterns could emerge from looking at cell phone location data of millions of people over a period of time, and place the lines on a map. I bet some interesting patterns would emerge. Don't get me wrong though: privacy is freedom. Lack of it, is slavery. Of course corporations, our new masters, are going to be tracking us like we would a pet, or a tagged farm animal. What else did you expect from a non human entity who's sole driver is the accumulation of more wealth by whatever means avai
  • by TarPitt (217247) on Saturday March 26, 2011 @03:54PM (#35624178)

    No phone company could ever be forced to divulge those sort of records simply because a customer demanded it.

    We have very strong privacy protections in this country - for the telcos

  • by Solandri (704621) on Saturday March 26, 2011 @05:02PM (#35624626)

    In a six-month period â" from Aug 31, 2009, to Feb. 28, 2010, Deutsche Telekom had recorded and saved his longitude and latitude coordinates more than 35,000 times.

    Germany had a data retention law requiring all phone data logs be saved for 6 months [wikipedia.org]. It was ruled unconstitutional on March 2, 2010. So during the time period of the records in question, Deutsche Telekom was simply complying with German law.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Nagrom (1233532)
      One of the things I like about Slashdot is that amongst the typically informed discussion about a story there's often at least one comment providing critical updates or corrections to the original information.

      Sadly this often doesn't turn up until after a couple of hundred posts based on the lack of that information and almost without fail the story itself remains unchanged, proudly maintaining its glaring omission.

  • The irony (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SpaghettiPattern (609814) on Saturday March 26, 2011 @06:24PM (#35625218)
    The irony is that after your phone is stolen both police and providers will claim they cannot track the device. That surely is a very comfortable way of lying your way out of doing some useful work.
    • They didn't track the phone in this case either. They recorded the cell sites the SIM card was connected to when the device performed an action which would attract a charge. Extremely different things. Specifically, it is the lat/long/antenna of the cell site which is recorded, not the device. The device can actually be several km away, or even using a different SIM.

      Carriers can mark a phone as "stolen". Once you do that, then that _device_ (separate from the SIM) will be barred from the network, along

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