Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

German Politician Demonstrates Extent of Cellphone Location Tracking

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the validating-stallman dept.

Privacy 328

frnic writes "Deutsche Telekom is tracking its customers' locations and saving the information: '.... as a German Green party politician, Malte Spitz, recently learned, we are already continually being tracked whether we volunteer to be or not. Cellphone companies do not typically divulge how much information they collect, so Mr. Spitz went to court to find out exactly what his cellphone company, Deutsche Telekom, knew about his whereabouts. The results were astounding. In a six-month period — from Aug 31, 2009, to Feb. 28, 2010, Deutsche Telekom had recorded and saved his longitude and latitude coordinates more than 35,000 times. It traced him from a train on the way to Erlangen at the start through to that last night, when he was home in Berlin. Mr. Spitz has provided a rare glimpse — an unprecedented one, privacy experts say — of what is being collected as we walk around with our phones."

cancel ×

328 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Christ ... (5, Insightful)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 3 years ago | (#35623418)

And they were worried about Google?!!!

Re:Christ ... (3, Insightful)

jhoegl (638955) | more than 3 years ago | (#35623448)

Should we be surprised?
Our Grocery stores track what we purchase, and everyone said "oh well, cheaper prices" (BS But okay).
Our ISPs track our information, even hijack DNS error pages now. Everyone said "Oh well, they are a business"
Now this, and I guarantee it will be "Oh well, they are a business that needs to make money"

Consumers let this happen.

Re:Christ ... (3, Insightful)

jhoegl (638955) | more than 3 years ago | (#35623470)

Oh, and I should have stated, that I know this is a story for Germany, but is it really a stretch to think phone companies arent doing this all over the world, including USA?

Duh... (2, Informative)

camg188 (932324) | more than 3 years ago | (#35623648)

Because that's how cell phones work. Cell phone companies must know where you are so that they can route your calls and data to the nearest cell phone tower.

In other shocking news... your landline provider, cable provider and isp know where you live. OMG!

Re:Duh... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35623710)

Because that's how cell phones work. Cell phone companies must know where you are so that they can route your calls and data to the nearest cell phone tower.

And save it for six months?
If I recall correctly, they have to do it because of the european data retention directive.

Re:Duh... (2)

FoolishOwl (1698506) | more than 3 years ago | (#35623962)

If not that, then it may simply be that organizations err on the side of caution with data retention policies.

I don't think the real point here is that there's some abuse by mobile phone services, or that this was a secret. The point is that this is a new phenomenon, with implications most people haven't considered.

Re:Duh... (3, Insightful)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 3 years ago | (#35623730)

That they know isn't the issue. That they keep the data for longer than they need to route your calls and data is the issue.

They have no* need to know where your phone was 2 hours ago, let alone last Tuesday, or 4 months ago.

* Well for provisioning purposes they likely want to know usage rates on a location/time basis - but that can be aggregate data.

Re:Duh... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35623880)

For a technically savvy but nefarious user, this would be a benefit. It wouldn't be too hard to hack together a system to make it appear you were somewhere when you were not actually there. The phone company records would provide you with an alibi.

I expect a royalty check if this concept is used in a movie.

Re:Duh... (1)

d6 (1944790) | more than 3 years ago | (#35624030)

>> For a technically savvy but nefarious user

having someone else carry your phone would require zero technical savvy...

Re:Duh... (1)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 3 years ago | (#35623732)

Cell phone companies must know where you are so that they can route your calls and data to the nearest cell phone tower.

But they don't need to keep that data.

Re:Duh... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35623986)

Cell phone companies must know where you are so that they can route your calls and data to the nearest cell phone tower.

But they don't need to keep that data.

After all, they only charge you monthly and logs should get rolled back... or greatly pruned. Pulling a Facebook on you saving data for every 8 minutes for perpetuity is pretty bad. That is considering this world has even more millions of "yous" on the phone grids than on any 600-million-user social network out there.

Re:Duh... (2)

GuldKalle (1065310) | more than 3 years ago | (#35623736)

Because that's how cell phones work. Cell phone companies must know where you are so that they can route your calls and data to the nearest cell phone tower.

But they don't need to know where you've been for the last six months.

Re:Duh... (2)

camg188 (932324) | more than 3 years ago | (#35624020)

They at least need to retain your location when you use your phone for customer billing, taxing, and inter-carrier billing. The taxing and inter-carrier data could possibly be anonymized, but I would expect that data would still be retained by the phone companies to cover their asses. Cell phone usage is taxed at the federal, state and city level (in the US) and inter-carrier charges/reciprocating agreements add up to big bucks, so I can understand why they might be hesitant to toss out data, particularly the original switch data, which contains all the originating and terminating information.

Re:Duh... (4, Insightful)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 3 years ago | (#35623766)

The problem is not that they know were you are, is that they know where you were. They definitively don't need six months of logs of your location to route your calls.

Re:Duh... (1)

Ludachrispeed (1326307) | more than 3 years ago | (#35623876)

Thank you! Mod parent up! And if I were a cell provider I'd probably want to save the information too... I'll bet they get some great statistics that really help them reduce their net traffic.

Nope wrong. (1)

johncandale (1430587) | more than 3 years ago | (#35624072)

All they must know is where the Phone is. As soon as you switch towers, they can drop the info about the last tower you were at. In fact it's a waste of resources to record and save your longitude and latitude coordinates more than 35,000 times in 6 months as in TFA. Or about 191.7 times a day.

I wish we could get a 'Police need a Court Warrant to get this info' sort of law. Also a 'must only keep what data you must need to run the main service'. Cell phone companies are utilities, and should have a distinction from other companies offering a service. Government regulation of rights is not unwarranted. Kind of like unlisted laws and telmarketing data from POTS restrictions. Keep in mind cell towers tend to be placed every 1-2 miles to suburbia. That doesn't lend it's self to the free market.

Re:Christ ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35623988)

Ahem *cough*. It's not necessarily the phone company that does the evil. I suspect pretty much all telecoms have external taps in place. Perhaps a sealed room at their premises, where some fibers are pulled. Nondisclosure requirements for their staff. I don't think there ever was any technical obstacle to gathering every single location update that goes into the Home Location Register and storing it for eternity. This data compresses rather well. Now imagine a giant ant hill where every worker can be tracked with great precision, at all times.

Re:Christ ... (2)

xororand (860319) | more than 3 years ago | (#35623496)

Grocery tracking can still be migitated easily. Just pay with cash as often as possible and do not accept surveillance cards ("Paypack", and whatever they are called.)

ISP tracking is a bit tougher but there are possible countermeasures to make it a less severe problem. For instance, one could write software that simulates an actual user who browses the web and pursues other online activity 24/7. This will not hide your actual activity but it gets lost in a stream of random noise.

Re:Christ ... (3, Insightful)

somersault (912633) | more than 3 years ago | (#35623542)

Umm.. does it really upset you that much that they know how often you buy bread, and what brand of toilet paper you prefer? Why would you even think about caring about that, let alone actually get paranoid about it?

Re:Christ ... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35623616)

What if you wanted to buy something less mundane? Say, salt peter and sulfer and glycerin from the pharmacy section?

Re:Christ ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35623920)

Then you'd damn well better not be using your discount card for that!

Re:Christ ... (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#35623936)

Then don't buy them all at once, if you think anyone actually cares. As a kid I bought sulfur, salt peter and charcoal at one time. No one said a thing.

Re:Christ ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35623976)

Then that's the stuff you pay for with cash.

Re:Christ ... (5, Insightful)

sqrt(2) (786011) | more than 3 years ago | (#35623622)

What if they share that info with insurance companies, and you end up paying more for life or car insurance because they flag you for buying alcohol in an amount they consider excessive? Or condoms, or pregnancy tests.

Re:Christ ... (1)

LordNacho (1909280) | more than 3 years ago | (#35623724)

What if they share that info with insurance companies, and you end up paying more for life or car insurance because they flag you for buying alcohol in an amount they consider excessive? Or condoms, or pregnancy tests.

If that information was passed without consent, yes, it would be sinister. But what if you willingly allowed the information to be passed to your insurer? Then the insurer could rely on positive selection (as opposed to adverse selection of people who didn't consent) as well as monitoring to give you a better rate.

Re:Christ ... (5, Insightful)

Aristos Mazer (181252) | more than 3 years ago | (#35623782)

> Then the insurer could rely on positive selection (as opposed to adverse selection of people who didn't consent) as well as monitoring to give you a better rate.

Nope. If you allow positive selection for those who volunteer, that implies negative selection for anyone who refuses to volunteer, and it would be a short hop from there to assume anyone refusing to share has something to hide. Insuance companies have no "presumption of innocence" requirement.

You have to ban all tracking of such data to avoid sinister.

Re:Christ ... (2)

sqrt(2) (786011) | more than 3 years ago | (#35623830)

Any info your insurance company gets will only be used to make you pay more, I guarantee it. You're not going to get any hand outs or kindness from that industry. Them having more information about you can only work against you, it's like talking to police; even when you're 100% innocent it benefits you to never cooperate.

Re:Christ ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35623656)

Yes, you do care. You care that they know you buy say preparation H and then all of a sudden you start getting coupons for some competing product in the mail. Now some third party company knows about your medical condition. You care that they know how often you buy whole milk and eggs and now someone knows that you may be at risk for higher cholesterol than average and that data may eventually leak to an insurance company. You really don't WANT this type of data recorded about you even if you have done nothing wrong. I know they don't record it about me. I register my cards to an address that doesn't exist with a name that isn't mine, and a phone number that I make up. I then share that card's number with other family members and they use it too. Of course, we pay cash so that they can't map it to our credit card name and number. Really this type of tracking isn't a question of the store knowing how often you buy bread and toilet paper. It is a question of what happens when all the data they have leaks or is sold.

Re:Christ ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35623738)

Bread and toilet paper? No. What would worry me is if insurance companies quietly vacumed up the total food purchases of their customers, ran them through a quick dietary analysis, and coincidentally dropped or kicked out everyone who looked like they might actually need insurance. What else would worry me is if present or potential employers did the same thing and let go anybody whose personal life deviated from their corporate ideals.

Re:Christ ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35623660)

If you want the grocery discounts but don't want the tracking card its simple.

1) don't get a card
2) tell them you left it at home, give them your phone number
3) it won't work, so they will use their generic store card. Yay

Re:Christ ... (1)

LordNacho (1909280) | more than 3 years ago | (#35623692)

Should we be surprised?

Our Grocery stores track what we purchase, and everyone said "oh well, cheaper prices" (BS But okay).

Our ISPs track our information, even hijack DNS error pages now. Everyone said "Oh well, they are a business"

Now this, and I guarantee it will be "Oh well, they are a business that needs to make money"

Consumers let this happen.

Well, yeah, they let it happen because they can see the use of collecting that info and therefore consent to it. The real question is whether this information is sent to other organisations, such as the government? I wonder how long it will take before someone's movements are tracked and used for police investigations. Perhaps it's already occurred.

Re:Christ ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35623922)

if you were paying attention, most items cost around a dollar more after shopping cards are introduced. I don't think it is to cover the costs of the program, but just so they can give you the normal price with the card and have you believe it saved you money.

You're still paying the exact same amount you would be if they had not implemented savings cards, but now they have your personal info. The reason they want personal info is because marketing companies have convinced them that you want an intimate relationship with corporations. The minute you stop visiting, you get cards saying how much they missed you, and they still have all these savings for you, since you mean so much to them.

While the data can and is used for profile building purposes, it's true intention is slightly more retarded. To convince you that the store you visit has feelings.

Re:Christ ... (1)

NotQuiteReal (608241) | more than 3 years ago | (#35624062)

Our Grocery stores track what we purchase

And a bunch of stuff we don't purchase... in all the grocery store I know about, you don't need the "loyalty" card... just a phone number that is associated with one. Nobody said it had to be your number. That said, I do have loyalty cards linked to my phone number, and I was recently surprised when I got a bunch of coupons, including one for straight up $6.00 worth of goods... for a store I almost never go to, since it is inconvenient. Turns out my kid in college uses the number, as do many of her friends. "rewards" add up fast when you have a bunch of hungry kids who want the discount. hmmm, I wonder how many stores have a customer who's number is 555-5555?

Re:Christ ... (1)

denizb (1973394) | more than 3 years ago | (#35624078)

Anything is acceptable if the goal is to make more money. God said so, on the first page of his book.

Re:Christ ... (1)

MoonBuggy (611105) | more than 3 years ago | (#35623476)

The odd thing is, we have a reason to expect Google to track us - collecting and sorting information is their business model, after all. This, on the other hand, is straight out of left field; how does it benefit the phone companies to spend time, money and storage space tracking the whereabouts of individual customers? At best, I can only imagine aggregate data being useful for planning new cell tower sites.

Re:Christ ... (2)

he-sk (103163) | more than 3 years ago | (#35623564)

Required by current EU data retention laws... which are being challenged and hopefully overturned, and soon.

EU and data (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35623728)

One thing is tracking the other is using this data. I believe in the whole world mobile operators collect this data just because they can. In Germany there is more transparency about what can get used when. So it kind of balances out. In a rather simplified way using any data that is not necessary for serving the customer or billing is forbidden. Police gets access to all the data, but it should have a court order and may not do dragnet operations.
I have worked a long time at a mobile operator in Germany but do not claim to have a complete picture about everything what happens there.

Re:Christ ... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35623478)

A cellphone with droid is evil x one million

Re:Christ ... (1)

_Sprocket_ (42527) | more than 3 years ago | (#35623590)

That crossed my mind. I had played with Latitude a bit with friends and family. But ultimately stopped using it over the concern of what kind of data trail I'm volunteering. Granted - I always knew that mobiles are essentially tracking devices anyway. The question is whether generating additional copies of a set of personal data is worth the risk for what I get out of it. I don't think it is; at least not in most cases.

CointelPro2 is on it's way. (1)

elucido (870205) | more than 3 years ago | (#35623726)

Re:CointelPro2 is on it's way. (1)

MrEricSir (398214) | more than 3 years ago | (#35623992)

Time to make an update version of Steal This Book.

RMS (5, Interesting)

xororand (860319) | more than 3 years ago | (#35623444)

"I don't have a cell phone. I won't carry a cell phone. It's Stalin's dream. Cell phones are tools of Big Brother. I'm not going to carry a tracking device that records where I go all the time, and I'm not going to carry a surveillance device that can be turned on to eavesdrop."

Re:RMS (2)

Turn-X Alphonse (789240) | more than 3 years ago | (#35623528)

You can just turn it off.

A cell phone is a very useful tool, just keep it turned off and use it only in an emergency and it could save your life with none of the tin foil hat stuff getting in the way.

Re:RMS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35623554)

No, you have to remove the battery too.

Re:RMS (1)

tempest69 (572798) | more than 3 years ago | (#35623658)

nope a piece of cellophane should suffice ;) no need to keep track of a battery too.

Re:RMS (1)

moonbender (547943) | more than 3 years ago | (#35623824)

That's true but not very relevant. If you want to use a cell phone as an emergency notification device, you can do that without being tracked. If you want to use it as a phone, in the way that almost everybody in the whole world does -- including even many developing countries -- then you can be tracked. And most likely are being tracked. Even people who don't consider this a problem at least have to admit that this is fairly spectacular.

Okay. Yes, you can avoid being monitored by either turning off the phone or leaving the phone at home. Note that turning it off only during "critical" moments leaves a record in itself. Even if you disable the tracking for certain movements, that doesn't change the fact that those movements you don't consider critical enough are being recorded, and may in hindsight turn out to be more critical than you thought. Or the data might be used in ways that do affect you negatively, but not in a manner significant enough to make you leave the phone. Obviously, the data can also be used in ways that affect you positively, say, by improving traffic routing.

The movement data is incredibly valuable for all kinds of analysis. If you simply consider the data of an individual person, you know with a fairly high certainty where they live, where they work and/or study, when they are unlikely to be at home, how they move around, where they shop -- the list goes on for a long time. If you've got the data of more than one person, you can create social graphs for work colleagues, friendships, relationships, and so on. Still just one kind of data! And it works even if everybody turns off his or her phone while they're buying drugs or robbing banks. And this isn't some crazy hypothetical stuff, this data exists, you could do this right now for millions of people.

Re:RMS (4, Informative)

Charliemopps (1157495) | more than 3 years ago | (#35623828)

They can turn the phone on remotely without your knowledge. The FBI does it routinely... so it's not tinfoil hat stuff, it's real world, documented proof type stuff.

Re:RMS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35623896)

Then take the battery out.

Re:RMS (1)

turkeyfish (950384) | more than 3 years ago | (#35623844)

If you turn it off, you will be unable to receive calls, some of which may be of an emergency nature.

The solution to the potential privacy and political issues involved is to make it a felony for anyone, including phone company employees, and FBI and CIA agents, to retain more than a few seconds each week in any particular individuals life a record of the location at which that particular phone is and what voice or data it might be transmitting. If there is probable cause, then appropriate law enforcement may be able to obtain a court order to record for longer periods of time, but this too should be expressly limited in nature and directly associated with the investigation of a potentially ongoing crime.

Any other solution is effectively turning such a system over to Big Brother and the only other debate left is who gets to be Big Brother.

Re:RMS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35623954)

It doesn't work like that. Some features, like mic, can be turned on even when the phone appears to be completely off. You would have to physically remove the battery.

Re:RMS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35624082)

Where can you get a "tin foil" hat? I can only find alluminium. And actually, you would need to remove the battery.

Re:RMS (1)

EvilGiraffe (2014568) | more than 3 years ago | (#35623592)

What Turn-X said. There's no reason to leave the thing on in general, mine's off 95% of the time. Keep it around to make calls in emergencies, or simply when you need to, and leave it off the rest of the time to avoid this kind of nonsense.

Re:RMS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35623708)

Does it need to be really OFF or airplane mode would be an alternative? My Motorola Milestone (a.k.a. Droid) take ages to boot :(

One of many reasons... (3, Informative)

EvilGiraffe (2014568) | more than 3 years ago | (#35623458)

to leave your cellphone turned off when you aren't using it.

Re:One of many reasons... (1)

jhoegl (638955) | more than 3 years ago | (#35623484)

I agree. I mean what is the point of having a cel phone except for the ability to get a hold of the user any time?

O wait.

Re:One of many reasons... (1)

EvilGiraffe (2014568) | more than 3 years ago | (#35623546)

For me, the point of a cell phone is to be able to make outgoing calls whenever you need to. Being reachable at any time is an unpleasant side-effect easily countered by turning the unit off.

Re:One of many reasons... (1)

sqrt(2) (786011) | more than 3 years ago | (#35623666)

Unfortunately, society seems to have chosen a different way, and the vast majority cannot choose to opt-out of participation if they want to keep their relationships and careers. Try getting a job these days when you tell them you don't have a cellphone, or you will only be reachable on it when it's convenient for you.

Re:One of many reasons... (1)

nabsltd (1313397) | more than 3 years ago | (#35623946)

Try getting a job these days when you tell them you don't have a cellphone, or you will only be reachable on it when it's convenient for you.

I've got a job exactly like that, and it really shouldn't be that hard to do, if you are working for a company that doesn't equate "job" with "indentured servitude". I do have a company-issued Blackberry, but it is only used for "system down" issues, and anyone calling for non-emergency reasons is allowed to be chewed out by me.

One way to combat this is if your manager demands your personal cell phone number, then make sure you get theirs, too. Then, if they abuse you by calling at all hours with insignificant items, return the favor with frequent "progress reports". Basically, you need to teach your company that unless you are part of some sort of "emergency response", there is no reason that you be contactable immediately outside of normal working hours. Letting them know that e-mail (or texts) will get a quick response in most cases will help them realize that "instant" is not a requirement for most jobs.

Re:One of many reasons... (1)

osu-neko (2604) | more than 3 years ago | (#35624108)

Try getting a job these days when you tell them you don't have a cellphone, or you will only be reachable on it when it's convenient for you.

Are you a doctor or something? If your boss wants to know what number to dial if there's an emergency, tell him "911". :p If there's an actual emergency, there ain't anything *I* can do about it. I'm a software engineer, not a doctor, fireman, or any other kind of professional that deals with emergencies. There are no problems I'm qualified to solve that can't wait until the start of the next business day.

Sysadmins may feel differently, of course, but that's the reason I stopped doing that kind of thing professionally. Believe it or not, it is possible to get a tech job without being a sysadmin.

Re:One of many reasons... (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 3 years ago | (#35623562)

That's why you have a phone? I have it so that I can browse the web, and send/receive texts. When people actually phone me, I rarely choose to answer, because it's almost always inconvenient.

Re:One of many reasons... (1)

Professr3 (670356) | more than 3 years ago | (#35623942)

Same here - I almost never answer, because I don't like talking on the phone. It's an imprecise method of communication that allows you no time to think / double-check your responses.

Re:One of many reasons... (1)

Musically_ut (1054312) | more than 3 years ago | (#35623504)

Sure, just tell everyone: "Kindly drop me an e-mail 24 hours before giving me a call on my mobile phone". Oh .. wait ...

Re:One of many reasons... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35623508)

Turning off your cellphone isn't complete protection.

Take out the battery. Don't turn it off first as the cellphone sends a "shutting down" signal when you do that. Just take out the battery.

Re:One of many reasons... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35623720)

Take out the battery. Don't turn it off first as the cellphone sends a "shutting down" signal when you do that. Just take out the battery.

How does that help? It might give you a few minutes when the network thinks you're somewhere and you're not but after a few minutes the network will check up on the phone, see it hasn't responded and assume its turned off. Unless you are going a long way in those few minutes (or being actively pursued) I don't see what difference it will make?

Earth Hour is a farce (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35623490)

At my house, we'll be celebrating Human Achievement Hour. Every light, every appliance, and every gadget will be powered on. I might even leave both cars idling in the driveway for an hour! The Global Warming hoax has been exposed as yet another tool of tyrants to control and tax populations. Suck it, Greenies!

Follow him on a map! (Link) (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35623500)

Follow him how he moves (ignore the german gibberish, the only thing that interests you is the bar "Geschwindigkeit" ("speed") where you can regulate how fast time flows in the interactive thingie there:

http://www.zeit.de/datenschutz/malte-spitz-vorratsdaten

Link to visualization (5, Informative)

he-sk (103163) | more than 3 years ago | (#35623540)

The German newspaper Die Zeit who was given access to this data has a visualization of his whereabouts for the 6 months. Press play and adjust speed with the slider to the right. The data is annotated with short reports of his day glimpsed from his Twitter account and blog.

http://www.zeit.de/datenschutz/malte-spitz-vorratsdaten [www.zeit.de]

I have news! (2, Informative)

sgt101 (120604) | more than 3 years ago | (#35623544)

For a cell phone to work... it needs to know where you are !

This is because the connection or the data packets need to be routed to a radio that can physically transmit them to you. That is the radio that defines the cell. The cell is in a place. The radio has to transmit the packets to you - which is a direction within the cell.

For the billing to work... you need to keep records! Because.. the radios and the backhaul belong to lots of different people, all of whom need paying.

Now ; how many criminals/terrorists have been tracked by virtue of these records? Many.

Is it right? Well, if you want a cell phone, you have to accept this - because thats the way it works, and there is no way it will change in the foreseeable future.

Re:I have news! (5, Insightful)

garcia (6573) | more than 3 years ago | (#35623674)

1. You're right, at the time of the ping the system needs to know where your phone is. It does not need to have a 6 month+ history of where your phone has been.

2. Billing does not need to keep your lat and long.

3. Just because a handful of people have been tracked in this manner doesn't mean that the 6.7 billion others should be.

4. No, we as customers tell the companies how they will operate and not the other way around. If you want to operate as a government sponsored monopoly (by using spectrum purchased from the people) then you get to follow OUR rules.

You have lose. (3, Insightful)

eddy (18759) | more than 3 years ago | (#35623690)

Don't be retarded, there's no way they have to STORE your phone POSITION months and months back. I doubt they even have to store it at all for it to work. If it were merely information deduced from billing as in "you were somewhere in area X because you made a call through carrier Y which is only active there", that's another thing. That's not what this is. This is the systematic tracking of data beyond that which is necessary for the network to work.

Re:I have news! (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35623794)

That is incorrect. The cell network does not need to know the location of the phone while it is not in use. The location updates improve the network efficiency and the call setup time though. Pagers necessarily worked without location tracking because pagers were passive devices. The network could first try to contact the phone where it was last seen when a call was in progress, and upon failing to make contact there, broadcast the call setup request. This functionality actually exists because cellphones don't report every location change. When investigators track phones, they send so-called silent short messages, which force communication with the phone (creating location updates) without showing up in the phone's user interface.

The reason why this politician can demonstrate the problem is political though: The data was collected because of a law that required all mobile phone network operators to record this information for every phone in Germany (the law is an implementation of a EU directive, so similar laws exist in other European countries). The constitutional court of Germany found this law to be unconstitutional, so it is no longer in effect, but Germany still needs to implement the EU directive (which of course the conservative parties backed, so this isn't something they don't want to do). The politician got his own data through a freedom of information request and is using it to show the extent to which the people of Germany are going to be tracked if a similar law is reinstated. Without such a law, keeping this tracking data is illegal.

Re:I have news! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35623802)

Billing my ass, they don't bill you based on your position.

I ahve another news for you (2)

aepervius (535155) | more than 3 years ago | (#35623850)

It needs to know where you are *NOW* it fdoes not need to know where youw ere 5 minutes ago. Therefore saving the data is a no-no and a big privacy breach.

RMS calls the 'tracking devices' (4, Insightful)

SplashMyBandit (1543257) | more than 3 years ago | (#35623570)

Richard Stallman (of the Free Software Foundation) calls cellphones 'tracking devices' and the last time I heard him talk he refused to carry one. It can be useful if you think of cellphones in that way (they weren't designed as tracking devices, but they're certainly being used that way now).

Re:RMS calls the 'tracking devices' (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35623958)

He things soap and water is a scheme for the government mind control too....

RMS is right again (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35623574)

Richard Stallman might sound like a kook, but turns out to be correct yet again. Just like he was about ebooks.

What's the problem with this? (0)

fbarajas (261145) | more than 3 years ago | (#35623582)

I mean, if I'm not doing anything wrong, what's the problem if Google, the goverment, or such, track me?

Re:What's the problem with this? (1)

Zontar The Mindless (9002) | more than 3 years ago | (#35623644)

I mean, if I'm not doing anything wrong, what's the problem if Google, the goverment, or such, track me?

This depends also on what Google and the government consider "wrong".

Re:What's the problem with this? (2)

eddy (18759) | more than 3 years ago | (#35623698)

I mean, if I'm not doing anything wrong, what's the problem if Google, the goverment, or such, track me?

Try to track government officials and they'll tell you all about why it's wrong. It's the most amazing thing.

Re:What's the problem with this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35623740)

Freedom? Take it from the other perspective, why would they want to? If simply for usage statistics the information would be completely anonymous.

The government, cell phone companies, and even Google are all managed by people... and in the case of the former, they aren't always the bastion of good and pure virtue we hope they are. Giving anyone the ability to track and view my habits without my permission is... well... perhaps what I've already done with a two year contract...

Re:What's the problem with this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35623764)

If you have a problem with this (as I do) you can get a prepaid phone with no plan, and pay cash for it even. Then there is no link to track you.

If you have no problem with this (as the majority doesn't seem to) then get a traditional plan-phone and let yourself be tracked.

It's your choice. Vote with your dollars. Don't say "but the phone I want isn't available that way..." it will be if there is enough demand for it. I guarantee that if 80% of people stopped buying $hotnewphone$ unless they could get it prepaid and anonymous, it would be available that way within a week.

As a society we get EXACTLY what we deserve to get.

Re:What's the problem with this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35623854)

If you have a problem with this (as I do) you can get a prepaid phone with no plan, and pay cash for it even. Then there is no link to track you.

You must realize that governments are trying to remove the prepaid cash, no ID option, right? Many places already don't allow it and many more are working on rules to not allow it.

Re:What's the problem with this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35624060)

Which they can only do if few people care. If that was what 75% of everyone wanted, it would stick around.

As always, you get what you deserve to get.

Re:What's the problem with this? (2)

ZorroXXX (610877) | more than 3 years ago | (#35623868)

I mean, if I'm not doing anything wrong, what's the problem if Google, the goverment, or such, track me?

By all means read the paper 'I've Got Nothing to Hide' and Other Misunderstandings of Privacy [ssrn.com] , it will give you lots of reasons for why this is a fallacy. Also recommended reading is Bruce Schneier's [wikipedia.org] blog post [schneier.com] about the subject.

Re:What's the problem with this? (1)

ChrisMaple (607946) | more than 3 years ago | (#35624004)

I mean, if I'm not doing anything wrong, what's the problem if Google, the goverment, or such, track me?

Let's see. My church is located between a brothel and a crack house. Across the street is a dealer in stolen machine guns.

Can you say "terrorist"? I know they can.

Re:What's the problem with this? (1)

osu-neko (2604) | more than 3 years ago | (#35624132)

I mean, if I'm not doing anything wrong, what's the problem if Google, the goverment, or such, track me?

No problem, as long as they're not doing anything wrong, either. And history shows government officials never misuse the information or power given to them, amirite?

direct link to the visualisation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35623584)

Here is the direct link to the visualisation tool: http://www.zeit.de/datenschutz/malte-spitz-vorratsdaten [www.zeit.de]

It's not as if we didn't know this. (3, Insightful)

jd (1658) | more than 3 years ago | (#35623636)

It's how the CIA were found kidnapping people in Italy. They'd been traced througout all of Europe by means of their cell-phones. This was public knowledge at the time of the Italian government complaints, it was public knowledge at the time that the police wanted easier access to reduce both governmental and non-governmental kidnaps, why the surprise now?

I'm not keen on the idea, but damnit the CIA example does illustrate that it may be a necessary tool for protection against governmental abuses. I'd argue that if that line is accepted, then the information should be stored in a manner that prevents access outside of a lawful enquiry authorized by a recognized court or a lawful query by the monitored individual as per the European data protection standards. How you'd enforce that is difficult.

Re:It's not as if we didn't know this. (1)

Aristos Mazer (181252) | more than 3 years ago | (#35623816)

Alternatively, you make the information entirely public. As in, everyone can look at the tracking records of anyone.

Freedom, security, privacy: Pick two.

This creates a cool new service industry (2)

ron_ivi (607351) | more than 3 years ago | (#35623646)

I'm tempted to create a startup company where we'll pick up your phone and park it wherever you're supposed to be (your office, etc), while you run off to wherever you really want to go; and at the same time give you a loaner-phone where we'd forward your calls to you.

Re:This creates a cool new service industry (2)

Geminii (954348) | more than 3 years ago | (#35623770)

Or you could sell cheap pre-paid phones without requesting any form of ID.

That doesn't seem to be an option in some countries - there's apparently a mandatory requirement to request and record ID on purchase of any cellular phone. I'm tempted to pay a bum twenty bucks to pick up my next phone for me. Or get together with twenty other people to make a bulk purchase under someone else's name.

Re:This creates a cool new service industry (2)

RobertLTux (260313) | more than 3 years ago | (#35623940)

and then you hit the anti dealer locks.
some stores have a "get caught and you are FIRED" grade policy that you can not sell more than say 3 unactivated phones to a single person.

Re:This creates a cool new service industry (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35624056)

and swap them every few days

But its not being used! (2)

cdrguru (88047) | more than 3 years ago | (#35623714)

OK, assume that it is a given that cell phone companies have this information. When someone is killed why do the police not simply pull the information for everyone that was within, say 500 feet, at the time of the murder? This would give them not only a potential suspect list but it would also give them a list of witnesses.

Right now, if you kill someone and keep your mouth shut you stand only about a 20% chance of being caught and convicted. You can be sure that this weighs in on the decision to (a) carry a deadly force weapon and (b) use it perhaps indiscriminately. If murderers were, say 90% caught and convicted instead of only 20% the rather obnoxious murder rate in cities might drop. It is somewhere between 0.5 and 2 murders every single day in nearly every large city in the US.

If this tool exists, it isn't being used by police. They don't have to get to pushy about it, but if they had a list of people that were in the area even if the murderer didn't have a cell phone on him at the time there is a high likelyhood that someone would have seen something.

Why wouldn't a witness come forward? There is a powerful force to discourage witnesses from coming forward in cities - they even sell T-shirts saying "Stop Snitching". Nobody wants to be a witness because it means putting your life at risk. The way things stand (with a rate of 20% of murders being caught and convicted) the police cannot possibly protect witnesses and there is a strong incentive to make sure that no witness will ever speak out. Given only a 1 in 5 chance of being convicted of killing a witness there is no way to get witnesses to place their life on hold and their life at risk for the chance (much less than 20%) that the murderer will not be out on the street looking for revenge.

And in other news.. (1)

MrEyes (2026912) | more than 3 years ago | (#35623734)

And in other news: Your doctor has access to your medical record, your bank has access to your transaction details

Bit of rationality, please? (1)

arielCo (995647) | more than 3 years ago | (#35623788)

Tracking a customer’s whereabouts is part and parcel of what phone companies do for a living. Every seven seconds or so, the phone company of someone with a working cellphone is determining the nearest tower, so as to most efficiently route calls. And for billing reasons, they track where the call is coming from and how long it has lasted.

“At any given instant, a cell company has to know where you are; it is constantly registering with the tower with the strongest signal,” said Matthew Blaze, a professor of computer and information science at the University of Pennsylvania who has testified before Congress on the issue.

Mr. Spitz’s information, Mr. Blaze pointed out, was not based on those frequent updates, but on how often Mr. Spitz checked his e-mail.

So, each call record (CDR) comes with a "cell ID" so big meanie telco knows where were you and what network serviced you and thus how to bill you. They could save your cell registration as you move around, but they don't need that unless the police explicitly asks them to (legal requirements may vary), but this was not the case, so they didn't.

EU directives and consitutional courts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35623886)

It has to be noted that nearly a year before this story first broke (Feb. 24th in the German newspaper "Die Zeit"; direct link to visualisation: http://www.zeit.de/datenschutz/malte-spitz-vorratsdaten [www.zeit.de] ), on March 2nd, 2010, the Bundesverfassungsgericht (lit.: federal constitutional court) declared the law in question void. The data in question only still existed because ongoing litigation by Mr. Spitz prevented its deletion. This is not, at this time, still happening.

Nevertheless, the EU directive it implemented still exists, and as is now standard for legislation concerned with security, it is really, really scary. If you live in the EU, this concerns you, so do write your MP or commissioner about it. Security should not be scary. For reference, its full name is "Directive 2006/24/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15 March 2006 on the retention of data generated or processed in connection with the provision of publicly available electronic communications services or of public communications networks and amending Directive 2002/58/EC".

Can you hear me now? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35623994)

1) Sell tinfoil-lined pants
2) (no service available)
3) Profit!

Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?