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German Politician Demonstrates Extent of Cellphone Location Tracking 328

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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  • by EvilGiraffe ( 2014568 ) on Saturday March 26, 2011 @02:16PM (#35623458)
    to leave your cellphone turned off when you aren't using it.
  • 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. []

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

    by sgt101 ( 120604 ) on Saturday March 26, 2011 @02:26PM (#35623544)

    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/terrorists have been tracked by virtue of these records? Many.

    Is it right? Well, if you want a cell phone, you have to accept this - because thats the way it works, and there is no way it will change in the foreseeable future.

  • Duh... (Score:3, Informative)

    by camg188 ( 932324 ) on Saturday March 26, 2011 @02:36PM (#35623648)
    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:I have news! (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 26, 2011 @02:51PM (#35623794)

    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 don't report every location change. When investigators track phones, they send so-called silent short messages, which force communication with the phone (creating location updates) without showing up in the phone's user interface.

    The reason why this politician can demonstrate the problem is political though: The data was collected because of a law that required all mobile phone network operators to record this information for every phone in Germany (the law is an implementation of a EU directive, so similar laws exist in other European countries). The constitutional court of Germany found this law to be unconstitutional, so it is no longer in effect, but Germany still needs to implement the EU directive (which of course the conservative parties backed, so this isn't something they don't want to do). The politician got his own data through a freedom of information request and is using it to show the extent to which the people of Germany are going to be tracked if a similar law is reinstated. Without such a law, keeping this tracking data is illegal.

  • 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.
  • Not Bullshit (Score:2, Informative)

    by pavon ( 30274 ) on Saturday March 26, 2011 @04:21PM (#35624356)
  • 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 []. 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.

Can anyone remember when the times were not hard, and money not scarce?