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Indian Government To Track Locations of All Cell Phone Users 151

Posted by timothy
from the or-do-you-have-something-to-hide? dept.
asto21 writes with this excerpt from The Indian Express: "As per amendments made to operators' licences, beginning May 31, operators would have to provide the Department of Telecommunications real-time details of users' locations in latitudes and longitudes. Documents obtained by The Indian Express show that details shall initially be provided for mobile numbers specified by the government. Within three years, service providers will have to provide information on locations of all users. The information will have some margin of error at first. But by 2013, at least 60 per cent of the calls in urban areas would have to be accurately tracked when made 100 metres away from the nearest cell tower. By 2014, the government will seek to increase the proportion to 75 per cent in cities and 50 per cent in suburban and rural areas."
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Indian Government To Track Locations of All Cell Phone Users

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  • Great (Score:5, Funny)

    by mr1911 (1942298) on Thursday February 16, 2012 @11:13AM (#39060033)
    No doubt this is for the good of the citizens. I hope the US follows suit soon.

    /sarcasm
    • by Stizark (1962342)
      Yeah. When it does happen in the US, I'd have a perfect reason to finally rid myself of this cell phone addiction.

      /lookatthebrightside
      • Honestly, for the first 30 years of my life there was no such thing as a cell phone. Why can't I live without it now?

        I swear of the US does this mandatory tracking, this will make us all go back to beepers circa 1992.

        • by Stizark (1962342)
          For the first 19 years, here.

          I guess I'll have to buy a real doorstop, instead of relegating the most recent yellowbook that honor. With the money I'd save, I could afford one of those really fancy 'stops.
        • Re:Great (Score:4, Funny)

          by PPH (736903) on Thursday February 16, 2012 @12:11PM (#39061113)

          No cell phone? You must be a terrorist.

          In fact, if you aren't buying the latest consumer gadget, we will have to sent you to a retraining center.

        • I only rarely use my cell phone & when it's in it's house (otterbox 1000 lined with a conductive coating) NO signals are sent or received.

          • by JTsyo (1338447)
            Doesn't that kill you batteries? Best turn it off in that box.
          • by Rasperin (1034758)

            They know where you live, fairly to safe if it doesn't have a signal a good place to check for you would be home. They want to know where you are going, who you are meeting with, etc. The best part is, doing something like that (and if they did track all records) you lose an alibi. "Sir person x, who we know you had a disagreement with, was murdered between the hours of 1am and 2am, being that you claim to be home but your phone was shut off just prior to the murder, I think we can safely assume you are gui

            • Sorry man, I believe you, but the real problem with GPS is that it reports where you've been as well as where you are!
              And facts don't matter, evidence doesn't matter, truth doesn't matter, all that matters is money.

    • by bobamu (943639)
      I'd be seriously amazed if they aren't already doing this.
    • Re:Great (Score:5, Interesting)

      by GameboyRMH (1153867) <gameboyrmh@NoSpAM.gmail.com> on Thursday February 16, 2012 @11:54AM (#39060803) Journal

      Oh please the US has been doing this for a long time, along with most first-world countries. In the US there is even a handy web interface for the cops to use whenever they please:

      http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2009/12/gps-data [wired.com]

      • It depends on how accessible this information is, and how accountable government officials would be? I'm fine with such requests, made via a court order or under pretty strictly defined emergency situations, so long as these requests are made a matter of public record. Not necessarily a big list showing who's been tracked - stats, broken down to agency and geographical area will do. If disclosing that a request had been made would harm an ongoing investigation, then set a confidentiality period measured in

      • by Catbeller (118204)

        I'd be careful - they label you crazy out here if you state the obvious truth.

  • So many people (Score:4, Informative)

    by RazzleFrog (537054) on Thursday February 16, 2012 @11:14AM (#39060053)

    Having been to India narrowing a persons location to within 100 meters still could mean thousands of people. It's like when they tracked the long island serial killer when he was calling a victim's sister from Times Square. They had little chance of picking out the guy from the hundreds of other people there.

    • by Anne_Nonymous (313852) on Thursday February 16, 2012 @11:19AM (#39060141) Homepage Journal

      >> within 100 meters still could mean thousands of people

      All of them brightly adorned and doing a complexly choreographed, extended dance sequence.

    • If they track you for a week are they still not getting useful information?

      Indeed, you could build not just a person's regular itinerary, but a network of who they are associated with. Arguably, you could build a pretty good profile of a person, including religious and political beliefs with probably high accuracy.

    • by Catbeller (118204)

      If only we had some sort of computing device that could analyze and winnow down the movements of hundreds of people at a time, esp. since we know where each started and each ends in a time period... but that's just crazy talk. Tin foil underwear nonsense, no one could pull that off.

    • Having been to India narrowing a persons location to within 100 meters still could mean thousands of people.

      Especially if they're on a train.

  • data (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Poeli (573204) on Thursday February 16, 2012 @11:18AM (#39060119)

    With 1B inhabitants, that's a hell of a lot of data to store. Privacy issue aside, I really wonder if there're not drowning themselfs in data...

    • Easy to store, even easier to search. Location data compresses nicely when you have lots of it.

    • Wrong (Score:3, Informative)

      by necro351 (593591)

      What are you talking about? If you have a tuple with 8 bytes each, that is still only 24GB for just the data. In terms of storage, buy a machine with 128GB of RAM that asynchronously writes back to a RAID volume, what's the big deal? Maybe networking would be more of an issue, but that is probably very solvable too.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by CimmerianX (2478270)

        Probably a little more because you need to date/time stamp each location for tracking....

      • by Artraze (600366)

        First, I'm guessing you meant 8 x 32bit values, not 8 bytes, which is pretty fair... Technically larger than needed, but probably better than real world with indexing/filesystem/etc overhead.
        Here's the thing though:
        It's 24GB PER SAMPLE.

        What's the sample rate? Certainly not 1 second like GPS. Maybe 5 minutes? That would be 288 * 24GB = 7TB every day. Now, certainly some compression is possible (e.g. don't record samples if it didn't move in that period) and you could get by with maybe 10min samples, but

        • Re:Wrong (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Rakishi (759894) on Thursday February 16, 2012 @12:42PM (#39061697)

          That's not a lot of data, if you think it is then you haven't seen how much data some corporations have. At my last job I didn't even notice a stray terabyte here or there.

          Let's say you end up with 1TB worth of data per day and 400TB per year. Facebook has 21 petabytes in it's 2000 machine hadoop cluster . Every day they add 12TB of compressed data and scan through 800TB of compressed data. Yahoo had 40000 machines in it's various hadoop clusters.

          400TB a year is nothing. You'd need maybe 100 of those 12TB facebook like servers for that (with replication, etc, etc.). Let's say 300 across two data centers for true redundancy. A moderately sized cluster as such things go.

          The cost of a server is I think $10000/year. So that all comes out to only $3million per year, make it $10million with all the usual corruption involved in such things. Basically peanuts to a government.

        • by sgt scrub (869860)

          Why would you need 8 32bit values to record coordinates? 8 bits for Latitude, 8 bits for Longitude and a 16 bit identifier should be sufficient. If you consider an ISP typically stores the first 4 bits of every packet on a gigabit network, a 32 bit per second storage system is not much of a stretch. Cisco already has a product that wraps co-ords up in SNMP packets for wireless devices. That is in addition to all of the other netflow information.

  • What will happen? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Thursday February 16, 2012 @11:21AM (#39060171)

    Seems pretty obvious to me that the biggest result will be that people who are actual criminals will take pains to either turn off their cell phones, use stolen phones or just go without any time they are doing something criminal.

    Meanwhile all the regular people are now even more at risk of the government or anyone else with access to this information like ex-boyfriends at the telco using this information against them.

    • by rsmith84 (2540216)
      Back to the days of having rats physically deliver hand written sentiments that are then eaten or burned.
    • Seems pretty obvious to me that the biggest result will be that people who are actual criminals will take pains to either turn off their cell phones, use stolen phones or just go without any time they are doing something criminal.

      You have forgotten that the vast majority of criminals are utter and complete morons. I have a friend who is a RCMP officer and you'd be amazed with his stories of criminal idiots.

      • by Rakishi (759894)

        You have forgotten that the vast majority of criminals are utter and complete morons.

        So since only 30% of crimes are ever solved in Canada (15% for property crimes, 55% for violent crimes) the police must just be utter morons.

      • You have forgotten that the vast majority of criminals are utter and complete morons. I have a friend who is a RCMP officer and you'd be amazed with his stories of criminal idiots.

        The thing about that argument is that those guys would almost certainly be caught with current methods since they are idiots after all chances are they screed up in plenty of other ways too.

    • I'm assuming that, in addition to the general spirit of gung-ho surveillance zeal, they are operating under the wishful assumption that this will give them the capability to act more competently in the case of something like the Mumbai attacks in 2008, which were coordinated in large party by cellphone...
    • Seems pretty obvious to me that the biggest result will be that people who are actual criminals will take pains to either turn off their cell phones, use stolen phones or just go without any time they are doing something criminal.

      Meanwhile all the regular people are now even more at risk of the government or anyone else with access to this information like ex-boyfriends at the telco using this information against them.

      That's a good point. It's almost as if the point is massive surveillance for myriad purposes, rather than catching particular criminals.

  • on a more depressing note, most govt-regulated mass-communication systems are open to this type of abuse :-/
  • India is so overpopulated that even if they could track your general location, they wouldn't be able to spot you in the thousands of people if they wanted to arrest you.
    • by CSMoran (1577071)

      India is so overpopulated that even if they could track your general location, they wouldn't be able to spot you in the thousands of people if they wanted to arrest you.

      But if they want to prove you were at A when you state you were at B, the crowd does not matter so much.

  • by justinlw (2568423) on Thursday February 16, 2012 @11:26AM (#39060255)
    Really, why is it that governments feel they must track our every movement, our every interaction? The answer is that governments - no matter how well they start off - all eventually end up seeking to fully control the lives of their citizens: it seems to be some sort of unavoidable emergent property of large aggregations of people. The idea of a citizen having some degree of personal sovereignty just falls by the wayside and everybody just gets swept up in the imperatives of the government. This may seem innocuous - or even benign to the naive - but the long term result is that it is a seeking of control for the sake of having control. Being traced like this can hardly be considered to be in the best interests of individual people.
    • Because after the attacks on that hotel, and a few other terrorist acts caused by foreign parties, the Indian government wants a way to track such suspects.

      They can do that already if they know the cell number, but by knowing all numbers and locations at any one time, they can data-mine and compute probabilities of what each cell phone user is doing, relative to both historical and real-time data, and if it is suspicious or not.

      For example, if you see a phone go from a known hideout to another target of int

  • If the purpose of providing user's location in real time is strictly for saving life and health of the same user (eg. if user dialed in for emergency, or is being actively searched for as a missing person, or as a person under stress as in danger of committing suicide, or a person suffering from Alzheimer's and known to wander off, etc..) then this measure seems logical and justified. However, if the purpose of the measure is to track all the people all the time, and recording this for yet unknown reasons,
    • Sure, it's fine, so long as it's properly regulated and we know who's making these requests and how often they're doing it. I want the right, with reasonable consideration given for ongoing investigations (not the endless war on terror shit), to ask a single agency to tell me who's been requesting a trace on me? This should go via court order or exceptional and well defined emergency circumstances, and anyone tracked must always have a right to an explanation.

      Consider stop and search laws in the UK. We need

  • 1) Will people be required to own/carry the cell phone?

    2) Will people be legally prevented from removing the battery?

    Because I would do one of those things if I found out someone was tracking everyone with them. Yeah, I know the US government has the power to track us, but they don't do it all the time.

    Frankly, I have no idea why so many idiots think they have to take each and every call right away. I see no problem with letting a call/text go to voicemail and getting back to them on MY schedule.

    • Will people be legally prevented from removing the battery?

      Go try to pop the battery out of your iPhone and let me know how that works out for you.

      • Because unscrewing 2 screws, sliding off the backing and removing the battery is so hard?

      • by Lumpy (12016)

        Dont need to, the iPhone is really off when you actually turn it off. Those of us that have bothered to check by using an RF spectrum analyzer know this as fact.

        In fact one of the engineers here was a real nutjob like the others here until we all started taking him cellphones to test. EVERY PHONE when turned off is actually off and not transmitting anything. The nutjobs that claim," you have to take out he battery" are just that. Nutjobs that have nothing to back up their claims.

        he even left an iphone o

        • Here's the thing : pagers emit zero RF, but are still able to do their job.

          Since a cellphone probably contains all the circuitry that you'd need to make a pager (and then some), it's not unreasonable to suppose that it could be programmed to function as one.

          Who is to say that a cellphone in standby mode doesn't have a "pager command" mode that will induce it to power up the transmitter, disclose it's location to the network, and then go back off again - but only on command. Monitoring the RF emissions of a

    • Frankly, I have no idea why so many idiots think they have to take each and every call right away. I see no problem with letting a call/text go to voicemail and getting back to them on MY schedule.

      I'm generally like you, but don't make the assumption that everyone falls into your use case. Some people may have jobs where they need to be completely reachable at times. They may be taking care of a sick relative, and need to be reached in case of an emergency. What works for you and me may not work for everyone, and that doesn't make them idiots.

  • So if some person from India calls me via his cell phone, should that government have my phone number information? Will they demand to know who I am based on that information? How quickly and readily will my government hand this info over to the Indian govt.?

    We are no longer simply a police-state, it has become a Global police-state.

    This is very depressing for it's possible further implications.

    • by Lumpy (12016)

      ever called DELL tech support? They already have it.

    • Government? In this country, government doesn't know who cell users are per se. And if you have a prepay (no contract) phone, your carrier might not either ... which is why drug dealers (supposedly anyway) prefer prepay phones.

      As far as the original story, I'm sure they're pushing it more along the lines of emergency services and/or civil protection orders ("We can prove from your cell phone data that yes you were on her property" sort of thing) as real-time location is pretty useless when it takes cops too

      • by Catbeller (118204)

        Prepay requires photo ID and debit/credit card. That hole was filled a while back. No anonymous prepaid phones, that's over.

  • Be the first on your block to set up a pre-paid throw-away burn-phone stand. Sheer volume of transactions, you'd be rich beyond the dreams of avarice, as long as you don't get caught...
  • Who's this for? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Compaqt (1758360) on Thursday February 16, 2012 @11:32AM (#39060357) Homepage

    For "normal" people, obviously:

    There are 1,170,938,000 people in India [google.com].

    The Taj attacks were carried out by 10 men [wikipedia.org].

    Meaning 99.9999991% of the people to be affected by this are NOT the poster children/excuse for this kind of tracking.

    It seems all the governments of the world are in a race to be the most onerous and most oppressive. They learn from each other, and so must we (normal peeps).

  • Why not implement the next step right away? Just attach a collar to every world citizen and track them. Add remote control by giving electrical shocks to the left and right, and you have 6 billion living drones. If one steps out of bound, declare them 'defective' and kill on the spot.

    This just disgusts me beyond belief.

    • RFID implanted into the forehead that is used to verify identity for any transaction. Don't have the ID, you can't buy/sell goods once the tracking is required for every transaction.

      He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.” Revelation 13:16-17

      ---- I don't always quote the bible. But when I do, I ma

  • a directional antenna.

    If they think this will let them catch a criminal easily, they will be foiled over and over by the smart ones.

    • by Geminii (954348)

      Almost every crimesolving technique and power is aimed squarely at making it easier to identify and round up criminals who are either stupid or who forgot to account for _all_ of the evidence which might be collected.

      Smart criminals are always going to be harder to catch, because they're smart. But they're also a vanishingly small percentage of the criminal element. Eventually, in order to get away with a crime, luck aside, a person is going to have to be so smart that there's not really much chance of ca

  • In kolkata cell phone location tracking is already being utilized to solve a rape case where the female victim accuses 5 people who have raped her, but the locations reported by the cell phones of those accused persons show they never been in the area where the victim reported of being raped.
  • A company here in the US, TruePosition, has been offering the capability to law enforcement and military to identify the location of all active cell phones in a specific area and time. This technology has implications that go beyond simple surveillance - Here is a link: http://www.trueposition.com/national-security/

    Basically, if you have a cellphone or mobile device and it is on...you can't hide. And, the profiles that can be developed from when and where a mobile device is used can be used to prevent and

  • Norway (the promised land of freedom and liberty, my ass) enacted a similar law last april, and we're implementing it this very monent.

    We've already seen mass-dna-screening using phone based location data (before the law was even in legislation; seems the police already had access to this kind of data..), and lobbying for making retained data accessible to rights holder organizations without a court process (our law lumps cell phone tracking and internet access tracking together).

  • As a silver lining, will we know where exactly our tech support call is going now?
  • I could turn my cell phone off for a while and they wouldn't know where I had been...

    Next law, citizens must own a cellular and have it fully charged and turned on day or night.

  • At some point the bad guys will stop carrying their cell phones, so the only people left to tract are citizens. First Skype/Google [slashdot.org], then blackberry [slashdot.org], and now this. Does India even have or even enforce privacy laws?

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