Cellphone Tracking & Government Regulations

Pablo Valerio, International Business & IT Consultant | 10/24/2011 | 28 comments

Pablo Valerio
“Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." — Benjamin Franklin

Last year Malte Spitz, of the German Green Party, went to court to find out about the location tracking of his cellphone and the data retained by the provider, T-Mobile (Deutsche Telecom). The results astonished him: During the months from September 2009 to February 2010 T-Mobile stored his GPS location more than 35,000 times, including train rides.

He decided to publish the data to show people what kind of surveillance cellphone users are subject to every minute. “I want to show the political message that this kind of data retention is really, really big, and you can really look into the life of people for six months and see what they are doing where they are.” said Spitz.

Cellphone location tracking is becoming a big issue since most new phones are equipped with some form of GPS location technology, and, while you can disable some forms of tracking every time you check your email, change cells, or send/receive a text message, your location is recorded.

Law enforcement and intelligence agencies all over the world want access to that data instantaneously without limits. The easy use of the technology to access the information makes some people believe that there is no harm in it. But location tracking and movement data is very sensitive information. It can be used for profiling and reveal relationships: It would be very easy for agencies with access to the information to track the people we meet, cross-reference databases with the location of our contacts, and check our location when we update our Facebook status, send/receive email, or just text messages.

Now the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) wants law enforcement agencies to tell the public to what extent they use, or will use, location tracking. The civil rights organization has sent formal requests to 379 local law enforcement agencies “demanding to know when, why, and how they are using cellphone location data to track Americans.”

Catherine Crump, staff attorney for the ACLU says, “The ability to access cellphone location data is an incredibly powerful tool, and its use is shrouded in secrecy. The public has the right to know how and under what circumstances their location information is being accessed by the government.”

I mentioned in a previous post the words of Judge Lisa Pupo Leniha, of the US District Court for Western Pennsylvania:

    ...the location information so broadly sought is extraordinarily personal and potentially sensitive; and that the ex parte nature of the proceedings, the comparatively low cost to the Government of the information requested, and the undetectable nature of a CSP’s electronic transfer of such information, render these requests particularly vulnerable to abuse...

    The Court emphasizes that the issue is not whether the Government can obtain movement/location information, but only the standard it must meet to obtain a Court Order for such disclosure and the basis of authority. It emphasizes that the Fourth Amendment standard is not a difficult one, requiring only that the Government support its belief of criminal activity and the probable materiality of the information to be obtained.

Also, any collected information by law enforcement agencies should be destroyed after the investigation is completed, except in cases where it becomes evidence in a criminal case. Retaining data is as dangerous to privacy as obtaining it.

I like the words of Dutch European MP Marietje Schaake during an interview last December: “Open government needs to be the standard and secrecy needs to be the exception. So I hope that this moment will be used to create more openness. I hope that trust can be rebuilt effectively between government politicians and people.”

I do believe the law enforcement agencies have the right to access any kind of information as part of a criminal investigation, but the standard they need to meet to access the information has to be very high, including a court order. The ability to access the location information with a mouse click, because it is technologically possible, has to be restricted and only used within those standards. Nobody should believe that the technology to access the information, because it is easy and fast to use, gives anyone the right to spy on individuals.

View Comments: Newest First | Oldest First | Threaded View
Page 1 / 3   >   >>
impactnow   Cellphone Tracking & Government Regulations   10/31/2011 10:56:56 PM
Cell phone tracking


I agree the choice is critical—my phone lets me turn location tracking on or off.

catalyst   Cellphone Tracking & Government Regulations   10/30/2011 11:48:19 PM
Prepaid SIM
Great article Pablo! I just have one question: can our location be connected to who we are if you're using a prepaid SIM card on an unlocked phone?
SunitaT   Cellphone Tracking & Government Regulations   10/30/2011 4:46:02 PM
Re: Cell phone tracking - I bet if I really knew is would scare the hell out of me.
Well...now I don't feel so bad about having my dumb, GPS-less phone.

@Rowan, Eventhough you carry GPS-less phone they can still track you down although results may not be that accurate.
Broadway   Cellphone Tracking & Government Regulations   10/27/2011 9:46:11 PM
Re: Cell phone tracking
Problem here in trying to educate consumers is the old human belief in: if I'm not doing anything illegal, what do I have to fear? Or: only people who deserve it will have their data analyzed by the government.
Pablo Valerio   Cellphone Tracking & Government Regulations   10/27/2011 9:32:32 PM
Re: Tracking
@impactnow.. you're right, but I'd like to have the choice.
User Ranking: Blogger
Pablo Valerio   Cellphone Tracking & Government Regulations   10/27/2011 9:31:56 PM
Re: "Regular" cell phones
@Joe, with your old cell phone they can't track your exact GPS location but an aproximate postion based on the cell footprint. and that footprint gets stored everytime you call or send a text message
User Ranking: Blogger
impactnow   Cellphone Tracking & Government Regulations   10/27/2011 9:29:32 PM

Maybe not if you are lost or taken—location technology could save your life.

Joe Stanganelli   Cellphone Tracking & Government Regulations   10/27/2011 5:43:30 PM
"Regular" cell phones
Definitely makes one long for the pre-smartphone days.

I'd probably still be using a cheapie "regular" cell phone if I hadn't broken it a couple of years back.
impactnow   Cellphone Tracking & Government Regulations   10/26/2011 1:01:30 PM
Cell phone tracking
Access, security, and choice are really the key to keep this technolgy used for good.
Pablo Valerio   Cellphone Tracking & Government Regulations   10/25/2011 4:22:45 PM
Re: Cell phone tracking - I bet if I really knew is would scare the hell out of me.
@Cyrus, you're right, just watch this Google video about Maps for Mobile. No GPS needed.

User Ranking: Blogger
Page 1 / 3   >   >>

The blogs and comments posted on EnterpriseEfficiency.com do not reflect the views of TechWeb, EnterpriseEfficiency.com, or its sponsors. EnterpriseEfficiency.com, TechWeb, and its sponsors do not assume responsibility for any comments, claims, or opinions made by authors and bloggers. They are no substitute for your own research and should not be relied upon for trading or any other purpose.

More Blogs from Pablo Valerio
Pablo Valerio   10/3/2013   35 comments
One of the factors keeping doctors from getting a complete picture of a patient's health condition is lack of patient cooperation. Patients are often advised by doctors to regularly record ...
Pablo Valerio   9/25/2013   21 comments
It's nearly impossible to do business anymore without access to huge amounts of data, whenever and wherever you want it. Yet cellular data roaming charges are pricey, WiFi spectrum is ...
Pablo Valerio   9/24/2013   20 comments
Aided by big-data and cloud computing, "personalized medicine" is enabling doctors and researchers to evaluate the potential of existing drugs in different individuals and make better ...
Pablo Valerio   8/28/2013   29 comments
A few weeks ago, Neelie Kroes, vice president of the European Union for the Digital Agenda, warned that American cloud companies could lose $35 billion because of the NSA spying scandal ...
Pablo Valerio   8/21/2013   39 comments
A new study by researchers from the MIT Sloan School of Management, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and NYU Stern School of Business shows that many people like or give positive ...
Latest Archived Broadcast
We talk with Bernard Golden about accelerating application delivery in the cloud.
On-demand Video with Chat
Register for this video discussion to learn how tablets can provide true business usability and productivity.
E2 IT Migration Zones
IT Migration Zone - UK
Why PowerShell Is Important
Reduce the Windows 8 Footprint for VDI
Rethinking Storage Management
IT Migration Zone - FR
SQL Server : 240 To de mémoire flash pour votre data warehouse
Quand Office vient booster les revenus Cloud et Android de Microsoft
Windows Phone : Nokia veut davantage d'applications (et les utilisateurs aussi)
IT Migration Zone - DE
Cloud Computing: Warum Unternehmen trotz NSA auf die „private“ Wolke setzen sollten
Cloud Computing bleibt Wachstumsmarkt – Windows Azure ist Vorreiter
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
Enterprise Efficiency Twitter Feed
Site Moderators Wanted
Enterprise Efficiency is looking for engaged readers to moderate the message boards on this site. Engage in high-IQ conversations with IT industry leaders; earn kudos and perks. Interested? E-mail:
Dell's Efficiency Modeling Tool
The major problem facing the CIO is how to measure the effectiveness of the IT department. Learn how Dell’s Efficiency Modeling Tool gives the CIO two clear, powerful numbers: Efficiency Quotient and Impact Quotient. These numbers can be transforma¬tive not only to the department, but to the entire enterprise.

Read the full report
The State of Enterprise Efficiency in the Virtual Era: Virtualization – Smart Approaches to Maximize Gains
Virtualization is a presence in nearly all enterprise data centers. But not all companies are using it to its best effect. Learn the common characteristics of success, what barriers companies face, and how to get the most from your efforts.

Read the full report
Informed CIO: Dollars & Sense: Virtual Desktop Infrastructure
Cut through the VDI hype and get the full picture -- including ROI and the impact on your Data Center -- to make an informed decision about your virtual desktop infrastructure deployments.

Read the full report
A Video Case Study – Translational Genomics Research Institute
e2 Video

On the Case
TGen IT: Where We're Going Next

7|11|12   |   08:12   |   10 comments

Now that TGen has broken new ground in genomic research by using Dell's storage, cloud, and high-performance computing solutions, the company discusses what will come next for it and for personalized medicine.
On the Case
Better Care Through Better Communications

6|6|12   |   02:24   |   11 comments

The achievements of the TGen/Dell project could improve how all people receive healthcare, because they are creating ways to improve end-to-end communication of medical data.
On the Case
TGen IT: Where We Are Now

5|15|12   |   06:58   |   6 comments

TGen is breaking new ground in genomic research by using Dell's storage, cloud, and high-performance computing solutions.
On the Case
TGen IT: Where We Were

4|27|12   |   06:45   |   10 comments

The Translational Genomics Research Institute wanted to save lives, but its efforts were hobbled by immense computing challenges related to collecting, processing, sharing, and storing enormous amounts of data.
On the Case
1,200% Faster

4|18|12   |   02:27   |   12 comments

Through their partnership, Dell and TGen have increased the speed of TGen’s medical research by 1,200 percent.
On the Case
IT May Improve Children's Chances of Survival

4|17|12   |   02:12   |   8 comments

IT is helping medical researchers reach breakthroughs in a way and pace never seen before.
On the Case
Medical Advances in the Cloud

4|10|12   |   1:25   |   5 comments

TGen and Dell are pushing the boundaries of computing, and harnessing the power of the cloud to improve healthcare.
On the Case
TGen: Living the Mission

4|9|12   |   2:25   |   3 comments

TGen's CIO puts the organizational mission at the heart of everything the IT staff does.
On the Case
TGen Speeding Up Biomedical Research to Save More Lives

4|5|12   |   1:59   |   6 comments

The Translational Genomics Research Institute is revamping its computing to improve speed, storage, and collaboration – and, most importantly, to save lives.
On the Case
Computing Power Helping to Save Children's Lives

3|28|12   |   2:13   |   3 comments

The Translational Genomics Institute’s partnership with Dell is enabling them to treat kids with neuroblastoma more quickly and save more lives.
Tom Nolle
The Big Reason to Use Office

3|18|14   |   02:24   |   46 comments

Office and personal productivity tools come in a first-class and coach flavor set, but what makes the difference is primarily little things that most users won't encounter. What's the big issue in using something other than Office, and can you get around it?
E2 Editors
SPONSORED: Mobile Security — A Use Case

3|4|14   |   04:27   |   16 comments

New mobile security solutions can accommodate a wide array of needs, including those of a complex university environment.
Tom Nolle
Killing Net Neutrality Might Save You Money

1|16|14   |   2:13   |   16 comments

The DC Court of Appeals voided most of the Neutrality Order, and whatever it might mean for the Internet overall, it might mean better and cheaper Internet VPNs for businesses.
Tom Nolle
The Internet of Everythinguseful

1|10|14   |   2:18   |   19 comments

We really don't want an "Internet of Everything" but even building an Internet of Everythinguseful means setting some ground rules to insure there's value in the process and that costs and risks are minimized.
Tom Nolle
Maturing Google Chrome

12|30|13   |   2.18   |   25 comments

Google's Chrome OS has a lot of potential value and a lot of recent press, but it still needs something to make it more than a thin client. It needs cloud integration, it needs extended APIs via web services, and it needs to suck it up and support a hard drive.
Sara Peters
No More Cookie-Cutter IT

12|23|13   |   03.58   |   21 comments

Creating the right combination of technology, people, and processes for your IT organization is a lot like baking Christmas cookies.
Sara Peters
Smart Wigs Not a Smart Idea

12|5|13   |   3:01   |   46 comments

Sony is seeking a patent for wigs that contain computing devices.
Tom Nolle
Cloud in the Wild

12|4|13   |   02:23   |   15 comments

On a recent African trip I saw examples of the value of the cloud in developing nations, for educational and community development programs. We could build on this, but not only in developing economies, because these same programs are often under-supported even in first-world countries.
E2 Editors
SPONSORED: Is Malware Evading Your IPS?

11|18|13   |   03:16   |   4 comments

Intrusion prevention software is supposed to detect and block malware intrusions, but clever malware authors can evade your IPS in these five main ways.
Sara Peters
Where Have All the Mentors Gone?

9|27|13   |   3:15   |   38 comments

A good professional mentor can change your life for the better... but where do you find one?
Tom Nolle
SDN Wars & You Could Win

9|17|13   |   2:10   |   5 comments

VMware's debate with Cisco on SDN might finally create a fusion between an SDN view that's all about software and another that's all about network equipment. That would be good for every enterprise considering the cloud and SDN.
Ivan Schneider
The Future of the Smart Watch

9|12|13   |   3:19   |   39 comments

Wearing a bulky, oversized watch is good training for the next phase in wristwatches: the Internet-enabled, connected watch. Why the smartphone-tethered connected watch makes sense, plus Ivan demos an entirely new concept for the "smart watch."
Tom Nolle
Cutting Your Cloud Storage Costs

9|4|13   |   2:06   |   3 comments

Cloud storage costs are determined primarily by the rate at which files are changed and the possibility of concurrent access/update. If you can structure your storage use to optimize these factors you can cut costs, perhaps to zero.
Sara Peters
Do CIOs Need an IT Background?

8|29|13   |   2:11   |   23 comments

Most of the CIOs interviewed in the How to Become a CIO series did not start their careers as IT professionals. So is an IT background essential?
Ivan Schneider
The Internet Loves Birthdays

8|27|13   |   3:25   |   69 comments

The Internet has evolved into a machine for drumming up a chorus of "Happy Birthday" messages, from family, friends, friends of friends who you added on Facebook, random people that you circled on G+, and increasingly, automated bots. Enough already.