Mobile Operators — Now Empowering Stalkers

from the who-needs-restraining-orders dept

The concept of tracking people via their cellphones is a touchy one, and always raises privacy concerns. But most efforts aren’t as questionable as the new offering from a company in the UK which, after an initial approval via text message, tracks a phone without giving its owner any indication it’s doing so. A writer for The Guardian has shown how easy it is to get approval for the service by stealing somebody’s phone for just a few minutes, quickly giving him the type of service that the Department of Justice has been fighting for in courts here in the US. Ths issue here isn’t the service, but rather the problem that this location information is so readily available. This company might have an approval system in place, but it’s so easily circumvented, and a company with slightly less scruples could just ignore it anyway. Given services like this and US carriers’ inability — or just unwillingness — to keep call records private, the idea that mobile operators really care about customer privacy is looking a pretty laughable one.

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Comments on “Mobile Operators — Now Empowering Stalkers”

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Posterlogo says:


If your phone gets stolen, perhaps it’s a good idea to just assume its been compromised. Although I don’t like the inherent idea of cell phone tracking, I’m not sure what the legal standing is on that. I’m actually surpised the mobile operator who owns the towers would allow this service for pay? Surely they must be in on it? In this country, although there is a reasonable right to privacy, it can be technically circumvented. A low tech approach is that van sitting across the street with telescopic cameras and microphones (all legal). Isn’t this just a high tech version of that? You are broadcasting something unencrypted, then you essentially give up the right to privacy. At least that’s the thinking used by law enforcement when they track people.

Tyson says:


I work in the wireless industry, but I really do not understand completely how the GSM technology works. I am kind of in the dark on how this company would be able to provide this service. Would it be through the use of form of GPS or would done via a combo of the SIM card and the tower the signal is coming from? Regardless to say, it would seem that the cellphone company would have to be providing some kind of data to this company in order for this to work. It is kind of scary to think that a cell phone company would give/sell this kind of information to a third party company.

Aaron says:

Cell Phone Tracking

I hate to be the one to tell unsuspecting people, the question of whether or not current cellular phone technology can be used to trace somebody is academic – it can. You use the cell stations to narrow the search from a wide area to a much smaller survey area, and within that survey area you use a handheld scanner to refine the subscribers exact position. Cellular phones are very chating and talk to the carrier on a regular basis – look ma, no GPS needed.

The question at hand is whether or not it is legal for a government agency to use this information and what rights the carrier has to provide services based off this information.

If you haven’t already made the leap in the thought, similar concerns also exist with the current WiFi 802.11b/g protocols and most likely future protocol implementations. It doesn’t matter if the data is encrypted or not, you weren’t looking for the data, just the person’s location that is sending the data…

malhombre says:

Already exploited

The Washington Times website

Man allegedly used GPS to stalk ex

Glendale, CA, Sep. 5 (UPI) — A Glendale, Calif., man has been charged with stalking in a case that claims he attached a cell phone with Global Positioning System technology to his ex-girlfriend’s car.

Ara Gabrielyan was charged Tuesday in Los Angeles County with stalking and threatening over a six-month period to kill his former girlfriend, the Los Angeles Daily News reported Sunday.

Gabrielyan is accused of using GPS technology to pinpoint the unidentified woman’s location so he could arrange encounters at the bookstore, at the airport, even at her brother’s grave site.

“This is what I would consider stalking of the 21st century — the utilization of technology to track a victim,” said Lt. Jon Perkins of the Glendale Police Department.

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