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Government agencies track citizens through cellphone signals

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posted on Dec, 10 2005 @ 02:40 PM

Live Tracking of Mobile Phones Prompts Court Fights on Privacy

Most Americans carry cellphones, but many may not know that government agencies can track their movements through the signals emanating from the handset.

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 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.

The rulings, issued by magistrate judges in New York, Texas and Maryland, underscore the growing debate over privacy rights and government surveillance in the digital age.

With mobile phones becoming as prevalent as conventional phones (there are 195 million cellular subscribers in this country), wireless companies are starting to exploit the phones' tracking abilities. For example, companies are marketing services that turn phones into even more precise global positioning devices for driving or allowing parents to track the whereabouts of their children through the handsets.

Not surprisingly, law enforcement agencies want to exploit this technology, too - which means more courts are bound to wrestle with what legal standard applies when government agents ask to conduct such surveillance.

Cellular operators like Verizon Wireless and Cingular Wireless know, within about 300 yards, the location of their subscribers whenever a phone is turned on. Even if the phone is not in use it is communicating with cellphone tower sites, and the wireless provider keeps track of the phone's position as it travels. The operators have said that they turn over location information when presented with a court order to do so...


It's pointless to say "slippery slope" when we are already careening down it at full speed...

Welcome to the future, folks... er, I mean present...

posted on Dec, 10 2005 @ 06:46 PM
This seems like an issue that will keep popping up...

back in May '05, there was this article at
which told of the GPS tracking signal couldn't track people in buildings....but President GW Bush is seeking a way to fix this gap of coverage by using TV signal technology as a back-up to be used with the GPS presently used.

I know the repeater towers are a different beast...but tracking is 'the' issue... and I see the Wireless providers for cellphones are apt to counter that theirs is not a 'tracking' tactic for surveillance, but IS
a necessary factor in bringing a more complete or holistic type of information directly to the consumer.
For instance, if you were in the vicinity of say Broadway...
the consumer alert band, if activated on your 'connectivity device' , would
send you current discounts available at different Theatres/Performances,
thus plugging you into a consumer matrix without the time consuming act
of reading thru newspapers or magazines to be current with the citylife.

extend that model to other intrests you might have...your insurance is near its expiration & your passing near MetLife or any other such provider, Viola!

To most everyones thinking, this live-time linkage is not an invasion-of-privacy, with the onus of 'tracking' is a blessing to assist us in the torrents of the digital world.

i reckon one persons dystopia is anothers utopia...

i enjoy your posts

posted on Dec, 10 2005 @ 06:46 PM
I wonder about the pay-as-you-go phones. My contract with Verizon is up in June, and after that I'm going to do pay-as-you-go.

My phone has it where you can have GPS on all the time, for just 911 calls, or not at all (I have it set for just 911). Probably doesn't even matter.

posted on Dec, 10 2005 @ 09:21 PM
The solution is very simple.

Keep your cell phone off when you do not need to make outgoing calls or are not expecting incoming calls. You can turn it on every couple of hours to check for voice mail, and turn it off again. Human civilization did just fine for 5,000 years without being in contact with everyone 24-7.

I can turn the GPS off on mine, although I keep it on '911 only'

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