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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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  • 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?
  • 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?

  • 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).
  • 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.

  • by jd ( 1658 ) < minus city> 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.

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

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

    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.

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

    by eddy ( 18759 ) on Saturday March 26, 2011 @02:40PM (#35623690) Homepage Journal
    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:Duh... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 26, 2011 @02:43PM (#35623710)

    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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

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

    by davester666 ( 731373 ) on Saturday March 26, 2011 @03:53PM (#35624172) Journal

    Before 9/11, you were just a local prankster when you bought that stuff, having some fun.

    After 9/11, you would clearly be a member of a small, previously undetected cell which was controlled by an international terrorist organization.

  • 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

  • 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.
  • Yes, Bullshit (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Saturday March 26, 2011 @06:48PM (#35625344)

    You provide a link, and get modded "Informative", but your link doesn't support your claim.

    Your link says that the FBI can activate the microphone in a cell phone that is already on. That is not the same as turning on a phone that is off.

  • by Nagrom ( 1233532 ) on Sunday March 27, 2011 @04:34AM (#35628324)
    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 next person to mention spaghetti stacks to me is going to have his head knocked off. -- Bill Conrad