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US Justice Dept. Sued For Cellular Tracking Information

Soulskill posted more than 5 years ago | from the portable-deprivatizer dept.

Privacy 75

tpaudio writes "The ACLU and the EFF are suing the Department of Justice over how the government might be using GPS and location data from cell phones. With over 200 million Americans carrying cell phones, this could be pretty important for setting guidelines. We have already seen other frightening powers related to cell phones, such as 'cell mic tapping.'" The ACLU press release is also available, and it contains links to the complaint and the Freedom of Information Act request. We've previously discussed instances of cell phone tracking in the US and elsewhere.

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75 comments

Already possible (5, Funny)

NadMutter (631470) | more than 5 years ago | (#24074153)

There already is a website dedicated to tracking spouses. http://www.sat-gps-locate.com/english/index.html [sat-gps-locate.com]

Re:Already possible (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24074227)

My new girlfriends vagina smells of mackerel, how can I resolve this?

Re:Already possible (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24078995)

Go to work in a fish factory. You won't notice after a week or so.

Re:Already possible (1)

spun (1352) | more than 5 years ago | (#24085309)

First you need to determine the cause of the smell.

1.) Does your girlfriend have fins, gills, and scales? Then the problem is that she IS a mackerel, and there isn't much you can do about it.

2.) Does your girlfriend's vagina have a light inside it that turns on when you open it? If so, your girlfriend is a refrigerator, and you need to get a box of baking soda.

3.) Does your girlfriend have fur, claws, and whiskers? If so, your girlfriend is a cat, and you are using her backwards. Turn her around.

4.) Do you open her vagina with a metal key? If so, your girlfriend is a tin of mackerel. Eat the mackerel, wash the tin, and the problem should go away.

5.) Does your girlfriend have fins, a blowhole, and slick, hairless skin? If so, your girlfriend is a porpoise and again, you are using her backwards. Turn her around.

MOD PARENT DOWN (1)

BenEnglishAtHome (449670) | more than 5 years ago | (#24074243)

It's just a link to a joke site. Why someone modded it insightful, I can't figure.

Re:MOD PARENT DOWN (2, Insightful)

story645 (1278106) | more than 5 years ago | (#24075149)

To give him karma points? He's pretty new and far as I know, Funny doesn't get karma, so they may have been trying to be nice.

Or the joke was insightful? The site looks pretty real, and it's totally not far fetched to believe that somebody's already implemented this for profit. Hell, there are plenty of sites that track spouses, invade their privacy, etc. I've heard of people installing key loggers to get into their spouses emails. Lots of people seem really quick to throw away all their ideals about privacy when they think someone is screwing around on 'em.

Re:MOD PARENT DOWN (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24081419)

Fark off troll

its dipshits like you who like to mod people down just because you disagree with them.

I knew it (1)

Holistic Missile (976980) | more than 5 years ago | (#24074259)

That bitch!

Just as I suspected!


I saw an article on CNN for a social networking site in the works (I don't remember the name of the company offhand), where you sign up with your cellular phone number to allow your friends to locate you.

The first thing I thought of was some dude signing up as his girlfriend or the girl at the bar who gave him her number last night, and then the stalking begins. The gal from CNN thought about it too - she asked him if he ever thought of that. His reply was something like 'Oh, well, uh, we could set it up so that when you sign up you can have the site text your phone when someone tries to locate you or something.'

Fortunately the dot-com craze is far behind us, or this idiot may already have investors!

Re:I knew it (1)

jessedorland (1320611) | more than 5 years ago | (#24075153)

Such technology is still in use -- dunno the name of the off hand, but it can allow GPS base phone to locate "loved ones" --- whatever that means. Although, it can be good for those who have disable or retarded children, or in a similar situation. In anycase these types of gadgets have been available since 80s. Only difference is that technology is now available to an average Joe.

Re:I knew it (1)

sumdumass (711423) | more than 5 years ago | (#24081383)

I remember a site back in the late 90's that could use your cellphone or a device that looked like a watch to track you from the cell towers. I guess the Idea was to put it on the kids and if they wonder off at the fair or in the store or get up before you do and open the front door, you could find them rather easily.

Of course it worked for adults too, perhaps with disabilities and stuff. But it used the triangulation between towers to locate the device, I'm not sure if it was very accurate. I think there was even a device you could put by the entry ways of the house and set it at night and it would go off if the child broke the plane in the doorway without hitting a button above their reach. I remember it specifically because there was a lot of cases at the time where kids (under 5) where waking up before their parents and attempting to escape and I wondered why no one told them to just lock the damn doors. Perhaps it wasn't that easy. Anyways, it seems like it was being marketed at people who couldn't afford it which happened to be the people who were losing track of their kids.

Re:Already possible (1)

muhadeeb (1062676) | more than 5 years ago | (#24075083)

There is also the search for criminals who use cell phones as also finding missing people who may be injured that can't be found in line of site. Teens who become involved in abnormal use of cellphone traffic may also be found. Not to mention anti government terrorists can be tracked.

Re:Already possible (1)

davester666 (731373) | more than 5 years ago | (#24076077)

anti-government terrorists?

You don't need the "anti government" part, as if they were pro-government terrorists, their official name is "police" or "military"... :-)

Re:Already possible (1)

mpe (36238) | more than 5 years ago | (#24080735)

You don't need the "anti government" part, as if they were pro-government terrorists, their official name is "police" or "military"... :-)

Or they'd be attached to some "black project", called "intelligence operatives". It isn't exactly unknown for governments to be funding "regular" terrorists, even those such as the IRA who actually made an effort to target "government".

Hardware Shutdown (2)

FlyingBishop (1293238) | more than 5 years ago | (#24074173)

Open source really isn't a solution. (Not that I don't want a fully open source cell-phone.) So long as the shut down procedure is implemented in software, someone at the FBI can find a way around it.

What we need to do is go back to the days when the off switch was a switch that broke the circuit connecting the power supply to the devices. That way, you shut it off, and it is off.

An even better solution (since I don't really trust it to be off unless I can see the circuits are inoperable) is a phone with two interlocking pieces, one of which contains the CPU, one of which contains the battery. It would need a simple mechanism to invert one of the pieces, a foolproof way of ensuring the machine cannot activate.

Re:Hardware Shutdown (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24074195)

Open source really isn't a solution. (Not that I don't want a fully open source cell-phone.) So long as the shut down procedure is implemented in software, someone at the FBI can find a way around it.

What we need to do is go back to the days when the off switch was a switch that broke the circuit connecting the power supply to the devices. That way, you shut it off, and it is off.

An even better solution (since I don't really trust it to be off unless I can see the circuits are inoperable) is a phone with two interlocking pieces, one of which contains the CPU, one of which contains the battery. It would need a simple mechanism to invert one of the pieces, a foolproof way of ensuring the machine cannot activate.

You mean, you should be able to easily open the phone and take out the battery?

Great news, dude! You can do that in 5 seconds with even the most basic of phones!

Note: certain iPods with antennae don't count.

Re:Hardware Shutdown (1)

FlyingBishop (1293238) | more than 5 years ago | (#24075421)

No, flip the battery over. I don't want to take the thing out, I will lose it, and even if I don't, it will be damaged by sitting around in my pocket outside the phone. There's a protective casing for a reason.

The bugging misinterpretation that never goes away (3, Insightful)

catwh0re (540371) | more than 5 years ago | (#24074183)

With regards to the story about the mafia being listened into with their cell phones and as also noted in the original affidavit related to the case: the cell phones were altered, i.e they were bugged: they were not dealing with off the shelf goods. The interesting part of the story was how they managed to obtain these mobile phones for alteration/switching. Bugging a device that already has the necessary parts to transmit audio is pretty unexciting.

Re:The bugging misinterpretation that never goes a (2, Informative)

kaliann (1316559) | more than 5 years ago | (#24074237)

Actually, the article that /. originally posted [cnet.com] on this specifically referred to remote software installation that did NOT require hands-on phone snatching shenanigans.

Re:The bugging misinterpretation that never goes a (1)

catwh0re (540371) | more than 5 years ago | (#24077591)

it created a lot of discussion about the method that was used to bug the phone, as it implied they were unaltered phones - however further investigation revealed that the author of the article (and also the fox news televised story) were propagating incorrect information.

Re:The bugging misinterpretation that never goes a (1)

kaliann (1316559) | more than 5 years ago | (#24077665)

Thanks, I appreciate the info. I'd mod you up if i were cool enough ;-)
Do you happen to have a link on the corrected info?

Re:The bugging misinterpretation that never goes a (1)

catwh0re (540371) | more than 5 years ago | (#24081063)

There was a lot of chatter about it in the original /. comments thread. I haven't been able to find a link to something that is still accessible though. Although it's a big proposition to suggest that a mobile phone has out-of-band management.(A feature that is usually reserved for plugged-in hardware.)

No misinterpretation that I see (1)

Burz (138833) | more than 5 years ago | (#24095939)

You have no references (other than Slashdot chatter) and I believe you are wrong.

Even the BBC has flatly stated [bbc.co.uk] that intelligence agencies employ such a remote surveillance technique. MI5 and FBI both are declining to fix this so-called misapprehension when asked by the press.

We are also talking about the same FBI that will infect target PCs with spyware [computerworld.com.au] through popular Internet sites like MySpace.

With respect to cellphones, there is no reason to believe that network operators in today's surveillance landscape (eavesdrop at will and avoid the consequences) would avoid exercising control over phones' firmware, turning them into bugs.

Re:No misinterpretation that I see (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24096197)

no shortage of moronic conspiracy theorists on slashdot, you do realise USA doesn't run the companies of the world - particularly the mobile handset makers. meanwhile you can compare and then trace battery consumption of your mobile phone device to realise that there is no OOB hardware in your handset

Re:No misinterpretation that I see (1)

Burz (138833) | more than 5 years ago | (#24104885)

no shortage of moronic conspiracy theorists on slashdot,

Classic symptom of a denier who has been backed into a corner due to a lack of supporting facts: Resort to ad-homs, with 'conspiracy theorist' being the fashionable choice these days.

I hope you've already had fun playing with your label-maker, because it isn't sticking.

Re:No misinterpretation that I see (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24132315)

perhaps ask an electronics engineer, or anyone with a basic idea of how a battery works before posting a retort that dances around a logical argument and easy to disprove superstitions. you might as well have quoted verses of the bible in your signature.

Ever get the feeling... (5, Insightful)

kaliann (1316559) | more than 5 years ago | (#24074201)

That somewhere in the Justice Dept. there's someone throwing a temper tantrum because someone took away their totally illegal advantage?

"Court decisions indicate that USAOs claim not to need probable cause to obtain real-time tracking information. News reports further suggest that some field offices are violating a Department of Justice 'internal recomendation' that 'federal procecutors seek warrants based on probable cause to obtain precise location data in private areas.'"

Don't make us get probable cause! Probable cause is for losers! And put the bumpers back into my bowling lanes!

I love it when my rights are seen as an inconvenience. (Though it's nice that someone has RECOMMENDED that probable cause be found.)

Seriously, they're law enforcement: finding probable cause IS THEIR JOB.

Re:Ever get the feeling... (4, Informative)

value_added (719364) | more than 5 years ago | (#24074735)

Don't make us get probable cause! Probable cause is for losers! And put the bumpers back into my bowling lanes!

I'm a big fan of sarcasm, but instead of going the bumper-sticker advocacy route, I'd suggest visiting the ACLU and clicking the Donate Now [aclu.org] button. That way when someone slams you with a "What are you? A pinko liberal card-carrying member of the ACLU?", they'd be at least partially correct for a change.

Similarly, you can visit the EFF website and become a member [eff.org] . Don't know if they give you a card to carry, but the free T-shirt could be worn by any geek with pride.

While I expect some of the more egregious abuses of the current administration may end when it packs up its bags and heads out the door, I don't expect to see the trend they represent to subside, or that in the future, there will fewer stories on Slashdot and in the mainstream press where the ACLU, the EFF and similar groups aren't forced to take yet another action to protect our rights.

Re:Ever get the feeling... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24075241)

"Don't make us get probable cause! Probable cause is for losers! And put the bumpers back into my bowling lanes!"

"I'm a big fan of sarcasm, but instead of going the bumper-sticker advocacy route,"

Was he planning to put bumper-stickers on the bowling lane bumpers?

Re:Ever get the feeling... (1)

tsm_sf (545316) | more than 5 years ago | (#24075521)

Could someone who was politically aware when Bush the First was in power please explain why belonging to the ACLU was such a dig back then? The whole "if you're a red-blooded American you don't need civil liberties" position is a big WTF to me.

Re:Ever get the feeling... (1)

value_added (719364) | more than 5 years ago | (#24076753)

Could someone who was politically aware when Bush the First was in power please explain why belonging to the ACLU was such a dig back then?

It started before the Bush and Rove twins assumed power. Maybe someone who lives and breathes this stuff can provide a more informative link describing the tortured history, but if it helps, this Wiki article [wikipedia.org] will get you started.

Most of this you can date back to the Reagan administration. A quick and dirty summary would be that Reagan was elected during a time when the country was suffering from the social and economic malaise arising out of, or during, the previous Carter administration. His election brought with it the religeous right [wikipedia.org] (people who were so upset with the changes that started happening in the 1960s that they insisted the 1950s had to come back) and brought with them grass-roots campaigning and strategies. Fast foward a few years, and you end up with an organised and funded network of groups that can repeat the buzzwords and pseudo idealogies ad nauseum. Repeat something often enough and people start to believe it's true. And when large numbers are doing it in an orchestrated manner, even those who haven't drunk the koolaid will start to question their own beliefs.

It's worth pointing out that Fox news is a newcomer in that regard. While they're an especially vocal mouthpiece, the "enough people doing it" effect has spilled over so now you have the mainstream media (The New York Times, being a good example), routinely questioning themselves for perceived "liberal" biases. You'd think with the large numbers of people that are routinely listening to nothing but that echo chamber referred to as "talk radio", they'd learn to be happy.

If you examine the Timeline section in the Wiki article on the religous right, you'll be able to correlate how and when popular opinions and perceptions of things changed. As for the ACLU specifically, well, they were founded in 1920s, so they carry with them a lot of history. If you think the current political climate is polluted, imagine a time when instead of complaining about liberals, a good portion of the population were going on about communists and negro sympathizers.

Re:Ever get the feeling... (2, Interesting)

R2.0 (532027) | more than 5 years ago | (#24078275)

The ACLU is widely seen by conservatives as a thinly veiled political organization with far left/communist leanings. The fact that they have not changed their stance on the Second Amendment after the Heller decision is seen as final confirmation of this: their policy has been to defend individual rights, not collective rights, therefor they didn't see it as their purview to defend the Second Amendment. Now that the Supreme Court has stated that the Second describes an individual right, the ACLU's response has been "The Supreme court is wrong, it's still a collective right, and we won't pursue any gun cases".

As for the less conservative and/or less politically aware, the ACLU has defended some astoundingly distasteful people and organizations - NAMBLA, Neo Nazis, Westboro Baptist. They also take the most extreme interpretation of any given right; for instance, Spam is free speech, and prisoners should have the right to solicit for "penpals and jobs" (read "pussy and drug couriers) online. Their logic is that they need to defend the most extreme so that the more mundane rights will be secure; while this has a certain logic, when combined with the fact that they routinely refuse to take cases that aren't "important enough" leads to charges that they are simply grandstanding and glory hounds.

Personal opinion? The national ACLU is filled with political whores who are into it only to get their names in the news and bring down "the man". My understanding is that the local units are much more in touch with real life issues, but are quite underfunded and their mission gets undercut by the national organizations stunts.

Open Phone Firmware solves this... (3, Interesting)

mwilliamson (672411) | more than 5 years ago | (#24074209)

This is exactly why we need phones with open firmwares running fully-published and open peer-reviewed code. I hope the openmoko comes close.

No it doesn't. (2, Insightful)

Alwin Henseler (640539) | more than 5 years ago | (#24074439)

Phones based on OpenMoko might be a lot harder to bug using the built-in mic (without the user knowing it), but this story is about location data.

Where your phone is at, is already tracked as a normal function of the cellphone network, because the network needs to determine what cell tower(s) your calls are routed through. So any time your phone is ready to make or receive calls, your provider knows where it is.

It's safe to assume that some (or all) of that data is recorded somehow. In the European Union, there's a EU-wide directive that would require such location data to be kept for at least a year or so. AFAIK that's already been passed despite protests from many sides, and now in the process of implementation in national laws. That is, where implementation isn't blocked by national governments, legal or technical problems. And there have been some high-profile court cases already, where cellphone location data was at stake.

The story is about how that location data could be used. How long is it kept? Who has access to it? Do you need a court order to get access? If so, on what grounds should it be granted? Is there any supervision? What other uses are there? What control (as a consumer) do you have over use of your cellphone location data?

Interesting questions - I can't say I know any clear answers for where I live. I guess that location data is recorded, may be kept for a loooong time, and that mis-use is possible by parties who have no right snooping in there. Like criminals, shady business, or government/law enforcement that may or may not honour applicable laws. If you don't like that, then: a) don't carry a cellphone, or b) pull out the battery when you're not calling.

Re:No it doesn't. (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 5 years ago | (#24077041)

Two gadgets I would like to see:

1) A pager that can turn on your cell phone - then you could use a service like google grandcentral that rings all of your actual phone numbers and the pager would turn the cell phone on in response in time to actually answer the call.

2) A cell phone with a directional antenna - you could point it at a tower that would normally be outside of your range. You would probably also want some sort of gadget, maybe a java app on the phone itself, that will show you heading and distance to 'all' of the towers around you without actually logging into the towers, so that you can easily pick and choose which tower you want to use.

Stop using loopt when running out of the bank... (1)

geomobile (1312099) | more than 5 years ago | (#24074287)

When tracking a phone it is important to differentiate between methods that allow the phone to locate itself or methods that locate the phone from the outside. GPS only allows the phone to locate itself. Consequently it has to be a two step process: First the phone must locate itself, then it must tell a third party about the position.

When it comes to obtaining GPS positions from a phone (without consent of the owner) there are two approaches in my view:

1. The person has installed a client software to use some LBS service There are a number of services out there that use client software that sends location information to a server to get location-based content. I do not know if loopt does that but probably yes. Police need to get to the service provider's data to get location information. It will only be current when the phone owner is using the software. Most of these clients will not just be running in the background all the time (due to battery). Not possible to do on most phone OSs anyway.

So you have full control of your position's privacy in this case. Whenever you don't want to be tracked, don't use a location-based service that sends your location over the internet.

2. A client software that sends your information is running without you knowing it. OS providers could be forced to pre-install OS "features" that transmit your position (on demand by remote command) . May be these lawsuits will show if there ever have been attempts to introduce something like that. May be it exists in the US. I wouldn't know. Even though I doubt that it could go unnoticed.

All in all I think the question is: How hard is it for police to get direct access to the live data of service providers such as loopt. Then they can locate people while their using the client. Otherwise they don't have access to GPS information on phones, unless government spyware is pre-installed on all GPS-enabled phones.

So, stop using loopt when running out of the bank.

This isn't about GPS. (5, Informative)

argent (18001) | more than 5 years ago | (#24074419)

You don't need GPS to locate the phone. The phone continually handshakes with multiple cells to support handoff between cells, and the phone company can use that information to locate and track you.

Re:This isn't about GPS. (1)

WhatAmIDoingHere (742870) | more than 5 years ago | (#24074905)

If the location finder on my iPhone is any indication of the accuracy of how phone companies 'find' you... In my area, all it does is say "You're somewhere within this 5 mile area that includes two towns."

Re:This isn't about GPS. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24075415)

I happen to be in the same area as a murder. I happen to look like the guy (black male, six feet tall) and I happen to drive the same "late 80's sedan".

Reasonable doubt and "about five miles" don't mean much to the jury.

Re:This isn't about GPS. (1)

sgt_doom (655561) | more than 5 years ago | (#24076347)

Exactly so and well done!

It is highly important to keep this capability and functionality as otherwise how would the bad guys, a k a, power elites, be able to track and terminate the likes of Phillip Merrill after he was ready to blow the whistle on the thievery of the Iraqi treasury by BushCo, plus the elimination of that Delta Force team that tipped off Seymour Hersh regarding their ordered standdown at Tora Bora (after sighting Osama bin L.); likewise the required termination of military personnel associated with the attempted transfer of nuclear-armed cruise missiles to Israel (via that Minot AFB to Barksdale AFB routing).....

Re:This isn't about GPS. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24078303)

You don't need to be the phone company to locate a handset.

With just a few synchronized RF receivers, anybody could find a cell phone. [wikipedia.org]

Re:This isn't about GPS. (1)

Phroggy (441) | more than 5 years ago | (#24081499)

Indeed, my phone (a Nokia N75) has no GPS, but is capable of finding my approximate location on Google Maps about half the time. Why it doesn't work the other half (and once showed a location about 2,000 miles away) I don't know...

Re:Stop using loopt when running out of the bank.. (1)

equid0x (1309511) | more than 5 years ago | (#24076115)

I am still shocked at how many people in the States are still blissfully unaware of the fact that as part of the E-911 regulations all phones made circa 2000 through present already contain a GPS device and/or support an automated method of triangulation via cell phone towers. During a 911 call in a supported region the GPS/Locating system can be activated to transmit your coordinates back to call-center where they are in turn relayed to the proper authorties. The accuracy of the system depends on the generation of your phone, but anything purchased within the last few years already contains enough hard/software to provide an accurate location. Typically, if you go digging through your options menus, you will find an option to enable/disable the GPS from operating all the time, however it can always be activated by calling 911(which begs the question can it be activated any other time through some software means - not trying to start conspiracy time but I'm willing to bet that it can be.)

Urgh. Bad movies predicting our future. (2, Interesting)

billeater (1320607) | more than 5 years ago | (#24074319)

Worse than all the privacy implications, this is making Enemy of the State [imdb.com] look plausible.
--
billeater - lower my bills [billeater.com]

Re:Urgh. Bad movies predicting our future. (0)

imipak (254310) | more than 5 years ago | (#24074371)

Come on, setting aside all the technology in that film, the idea that there could be a secret, unscrutinised government-within-a-government working out of the basement of the USG [wikipedia.org] is plainly ridiculous. After Watergate a system of checks and balances and congressional oversight was introduced which, although it probably does mean some bad guys are caught later than would otherwise be the case, guarantees that constitutional rights are protected.

Re:Urgh. Bad movies predicting our future. (1)

sgt_doom (655561) | more than 5 years ago | (#24076421)

Oh puuuhlease...you surely don't think this movie's premise could possibly ever happen???

Simply because we now have the existence of the T.I.A. (made up of NSA, NGA and 90 plus government contractors performing domestic surveillance - including everything from pay-per-view at the hotels/motels, those cameras at all those toll booths, those security cameras throughout every major metropolis, your every online credit and check transaction courtesy of First Data...oh, I could go on, but what's the use...), not to mention all those privatized satellite networks - once run by the government...

Then, of course, there's that HAVA legislation which required centralized voter registration databases, under the power of individiual secretaries of state (bad news, when their Republicans or globalist Dems), and a number brought into existence by either Accenture or ChoicePoint......

Not a news (1)

jessedorland (1320611) | more than 5 years ago | (#24074423)

Government have been doing this for years. Now they are willing to do it out in the open. Which is a good thing -- not that I support it though.

Re:Not a news (1)

russotto (537200) | more than 5 years ago | (#24074699)

IMO, it's not such a good thing it's being done out in the open. When it was secret, the government had to restrict the methods to high-value targets (mobsters, terrorists, political enemies, though perhaps not in that order), and even then often had to confirm (and appear to discover) the information through legal sources before moving against them, to avoid tipping off the other side. With this tracking being done openly, anyone can be a target -- and without a probable cause requirement, for any reason or no reason.

you FAIL it! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24074467)

were taken oveR more. If you fseel BSD HAS ALWAYS FreeBSD used to a way to spend wall: *BSD faces a

You can't track people (4, Informative)

LM741N (258038) | more than 5 years ago | (#24074743)

with the cellphone turned off. Witness the long times that phones take to turn on / reboot the uP, and you know that nothing is going on inside there unless someone physically gets a hold of your phone and installs some electronics in it. But working in the handset industry for years I can tell you there is not enough room in the phones for anything extra, no matter how compact.

Of course they can ... (4, Informative)

Zero__Kelvin (151819) | more than 5 years ago | (#24075585)

"You can't track people with the cellphone turned off."

Of course they can. The cell phone, when turned "off" is still operating. How else do you think it determines that you want to turn it on? It needs to figure out that you have held the button for a specific period of time (the same button normally used to disconnect a call when "on" .) Do you think it accomplishes this without the power? The cell phone is always powered even when "off" . Even if the CPU wasn't powered at all times, which it is, you are assuming that the IC that sends and recieves the analog signals to and from the cell are not operational, which is also a bogus assumption.

... and a few points to keep the clueless from responding to quickly, as they are wont to do:

  1. The CPU may be in a low power state until a key is pressed. It may not be clocked until that key is pressed. It may be drawing nanoamps of current. It is still powered .
  2. The signal is analog between the phone and the cell. It may be encoded and decoded digitally, but it is none the less an analog signal. In fact every signal in a computer is analog ! Digital is merely a special case of analog. All digital signals are analog. Not all analog signals are digital.

    "But working in the handset industry for years ..."

    Just a note to the people who read this line and assumed it was a reasonable voucher of credential:

    Working in the health industry for years does not qualify one to perform brain surgery. Working as a surgeon for years still may not do so. No offense intended to to LM741N (which ironically is an analog op-amp IC IIRC), but you are severiously misinformed.

Re:Of course they can ... (1)

Chaxid (772696) | more than 5 years ago | (#24078333)

This reminds me of something we'd always be required to do at my job during meetings. Take the cell phone battery completely out of the phone. I never really understood this, and chalked it up to paranoia, but my bosses where under the impression that someone might be able to remotely turn the mic on. They even said that this has happened before. They only required this while we were in Iraq. Maybe they need to think about doing this in the states too :)

you are wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24079967)

You are wrong. The cellphone is not "operating", in the sense that its main processor and subunits - that is, the "smart" components which could do that sort of tracking - are actually not running at all. Not even the memory is powere.

There is a tiny subsystem that keeps a watch on the powerbutton and is probably as complex as a watchdog as far as circuitry. Similar to ATX power supplies. That's all.

Re:you are wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24080453)

Some of the xscale processors support an extremely low power mode, but, yes, I doubt anything especially "smart" is taking place on most cellphones. In particular, the radio systems (including gps) are no doubt unpowered, which is what this whole damned thread started off about before somebody wanted to get assertive about some questionable claims (not you, honorable anonymous coward).

Now, if paranoiacs still want a reason to go an extra step beyond removing the battery, know that there's sometimes a _second_ battery buried in the phone. Not to mention the fact that if a determined adversary wanted to spy on you through the cellphone, the ability to operate with the main battery missing is one of the first things they'd think of.

--
The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.

Re:you are wrong (1)

Zero__Kelvin (151819) | more than 5 years ago | (#24083103)

"In particular, the radio systems (including gps) are no doubt unpowered, which is what this whole damned thread started off about before somebody wanted to get assertive about some questionable claims (not you, honorable anonymous coward)."

Why is the Anonymous Coward talking to himself?

In any case, again, you have no idea what a cell phone does when that "power off" function is pressed (nor do I.) What we all do know, now (the ones smart enough to understand what I wrote at least) is that when the power is "off", the power is still ON, but parts of the phone are in a low power state. All of this is controlled by firmware which we cannot typically inspect. Is this all too complicated to grasp AC?

Re:you are wrong (1)

Zero__Kelvin (151819) | more than 5 years ago | (#24083055)

"You are wrong. The cellphone is not "operating", in the sense that its main processor and subunits - that is, the "smart" components which could do that sort of tracking - are actually not running at all."

What part of The CPU may be in a low power state until a key is pressed. It may not be clocked until that key is pressed." does the AC have trouble understanding? I'm wrong because I acknowledge that what he says is true before he says it? Interesting ...

I presume that the AC also has a listing of every piece of firmware in the device of every cell phone on the planet, has evaluated them all line by line, and knows exactly what happens when the power button is pressed. I further presume he has looked at the schematic for every cell phone on the planet, and knows exactly how each of them accomplishes the "power on" function.

".. and is probably as complex as ..."

Oh, I see. He meant I'm probably wrong. Or maybe he meant to say I'm possibly wrong?

Re:You can't track people (1)

noidentity (188756) | more than 5 years ago | (#24076629)

you know that nothing is going on inside there unless someone physically gets a hold of your phone and installs some electronics in it. But working in the handset industry for years I can tell you there is not enough room in the phones for anything extra, no matter how compact.

There's plenty of room in the space for the battery, which can be swapped with a bugged one in less than 5 seconds.

How off is "off", and can malware change that? (1)

Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) | more than 5 years ago | (#24078687)

The battery-gobbling RF transmitter has just got to be off when the phone is on standby, but can malware intercept the power-off request and turn off the display and keyboard while leaving the tower-tracking logic running? If it were set to wake itself up every five minutes to acquire a tower but to sleep in between, it would be good for tracking and might not noticeably affect battery life.

For people who worry about things like this but still want to be reachable, there's the option of giving out a pager number instead of your mobile number and only turning on the phone to call back numbers sent to the pager.

NOT NEWS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24074811)

This is not news, common mobiles can have their voice calls intercepted very easily as they are simple transceivers and do not use any encrytation when making voice calls. Very easy to spy on, no fancy 'tools' requiered...

Might be doing? (1)

kenh (9056) | more than 5 years ago | (#24074893)

What, you can sue because something is merely possible? That is amazing - Minority Report [wikipedia.org] here we come!

Ken

Re:Might be doing? (1)

c6gunner (950153) | more than 5 years ago | (#24075121)

What, you can sue because something is merely possible?

Yeah, that was my first thought. Everyone here's bitching about how horrible it is that the government's spying on people, but that's missing the point entirely - I'm much more concerned about the fact that the ACLU is launching a lawsuit based on a guess.

Re:Might be doing? (1)

sumdumass (711423) | more than 5 years ago | (#24085263)

"The enemy of my enemy if my friend" and taking this to the extreme of "It doesn't matter how many babies they rape and mothers they kill, as long as they serve my purpose" comes to mind in this.

It seems that a lot of people are willing to over look the ordinary insanity in order to achive their goals of getting the government. To throw another phrase around, the ends justify the means when it helps your side. Sadely, not too many people are willing to stick up for principle if it mean setting their agenda back.

Now, I may have exaggerated the sentiment but I think it is an accurate concept, just maybe not to that degree.

Re:Might be doing? (1)

n8_f (85799) | more than 5 years ago | (#24078671)

RTFPR. The ACLU press release explains this in the first paragraph. Last year they filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Department of Justice to get the government's policies and procedures for tracking people via their cellphones. The DOJ basically ignored the request, so now the ACLU and EFF are suing the government to try to get them to comply with that request (and the law). Sounds like a ideal example of why we have lawsuits.

Are airwaves fair game? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24074935)

Tangentially related to this posting and focusing on US law...

Is there any legal right to privacy for data transmitted over the airwaves (wi-fi, cell phone, etc)? Are there laws in place to limit snooping by capturing information transmitted over the airwaves? There are a number of clear laws in place to prevent tapping physical lines, but what about "tapping" the airwaves?

It seems that tracking data traffic via passive listening stations skirts most laws designed to product data transmitted over land lines. With more people using cell phones and wireless network connections, most communications can probably be monitored without restrictions. Strategically placed listening stations and some decent sized data centers could easily monitor large populations using wireless communication. Even if the data is encrypted, enough information can probably be gleaned to track individuals (and, with enough compute power, the encryption used for consumer devices could be broken, maybe not in real time, but definitely off-line) .

Can anyone shed more light on the laws surrounding this type of monitoring?

-AC

second link (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24075165)

Hate to break it to ya'll, but that second link doesn't track users... bothering to read the article (I know I know) you would learn that they only knew the towers the calls used, pretty low-res data...

In other words, they are using (anonymized) billing records, not gps locators. Now there are probably still privacy concerns with this, but any phone company must keep these records. Would you prefer the credit card companies to not keep a record of purchases (for your privacy) and instead just have a running tally for your balance? What could possibly go wrong?

So legitimate privacy concerns may exist, but they exist when using cell phones, regardless of the presence of any scientists' actions

FBI can tap cellphones without attachments (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24076679)

http://news.zdnet.com/2100-1035_22-6140191.html

RTFA and please excuse me while I get my tinfoil car.

give them an inch... (1)

Eil (82413) | more than 5 years ago | (#24078185)

Who didn't think it was going to come to this when the FCC mandated GPS capability on all phones sold after a particular date (2005, I believe)?

no one is safe, bugs are everywhere (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24079391)

do you disable your cell phone or not use one?

no problem!

the stasi had a trick of using radiation to track you if you're interesting enough, you think there's nothing like this used today in the stormtrooper's of USA?

What about RFID and other tiny bugging devices?

If they want you bugged they'll bug you, some of the wonderful ones which are little known are little sticky rfids and other bugs which can be applied to your clothing by touch or from remote by a projectile tagging method. There are many, many ways, and most of them are not public knowledge.

there is [b]always[/b] someone listening.

That's nothing compared to Linux/gpsd (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24081861)

That's nothing. The standard Linux GPS daemon (gpsd [berlios.de] ) still doesn't let a user use an authentication mechanism or even specify an IP other than 0.0.0.0 to listen on. As a result, anyone scanning for port 2947 (at least this is changeable) can dump out the location of an IP-accessible Linux box that has a GPS device attached. At least only the phone companies and whoever they sell or give your location data to know about your cell phone location -- a Linux box is rather more exposed.

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