Since the technological revolution is upon us privacy has become more and more a thing of concern. Particularly can you be tracked or traced by your cell phone. This is something I hear people talk about quite often so I thought it would be interesting to dig into the facts behind this.
How Can Your Cell Phone Reveal Your Location
There are many ways that a cell phone or smart phone may reveal a persons location, but the simplest method would start by determining which cell phone tower was used in transmitting a persons call.
When you call someone on your cell phone, the signal that is transmitted will search for the nearest tower available to handle the signal. Once a connection is established via one of the towers, that transmission is generally logged and stored in a database pretty much indefinitely. The information is usually stored on the cell phone providers network computers, but this information is not generally disclosed to the wireless customer.
Urban areas have towers that are generally responsible for covering areas of 1 to 2 square miles, this makes pinpointing a callers general location pretty simple. Although the exact coordinates may not be possible, they can get pretty close and would be able to close in on your fairly quickly.
More Advanced Cell Phone Tracking Methods
Of course as days go by technology advances with it, and so does the means to track callers via their cell phone. The more modern approach to this would be integrating the use of satellites.
Most all modern cell phones or smart phones are now equipped with GPS or Global Positioning System chips that can determine the exact geological coordinates of a cell phone callers location. This is done by signal transmissions bouncing back and forth between a satellite array and the cell phone in question.
The GPS chip will take into consideration the differences in arrival times of this signal to calculate the phone’s coordinates. This is done by use of a mathematical process known as trilateration. GPS enabled phones are becoming more and more common due to enhanced 911. The Federal Communications Commission has rules in place mandating that emergency operators are to be able to trace wireless calls at any time.
I believe it is now law that all newly produced cell phones must be E911 compliant. They say that non-emergency GPS data is not recorded due to privacy issues. But I’m sure there are some conspiracies at play that would refute this statistic.
I’m sure most major governments have an interest in how cell phones are being used and want statistics on the busiest and slowest traffic times which would be all too easy to accomplish using GPS tracking. But we won’t go too far into conspiracies in this post.
How is Location Data Used in Criminal Cases
Data collected from cell phone tower records is used in criminal cases quite a bit these days.
One great example of how this technology was vital was during the prosecution of David Westerfield. He was convicted of killing 7 year old Danielle van Dam in San Diego, California. His cell phone records revealed quite an interesting travel pattern during the two days after the girl had disappeared. It was also discovered he made a unusual trip to the desert.
Even though his cell phone records were a huge part of the evidence in this case, they still couldn’t acquire this evidence without a court order. But these records have been known to slip out during desperate time sensitive cases such as kidnappings and disappearances.
So it is in fact possible to track and locate someone via their cell phone in a couple of different ways. But it’s not as easy as just opening a map real quick, or is it?
Some modern cell phones now have tracking systems that will allow two parties to see where they are at all times, but normally this is a service that both parties have to enable or agree to use. I haven’t used it myself but I think it works sort of like accepting a friend request on a social network. Basically each person has to allow the other before they will show up on the map.
If you are a paranoid type of person and are constantly worried that the eye in the sky is stalking you, then you can probably rest a little easier. Because even though it’s possible to be tracked or traced by your cell phone, it is highly unlikely. Unless of course you’ve done something very wrong and the law is out to get ya.
And for those conspiracy theorists out there, I have no doubt, but that’s for another discussion…