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Cops' Warrantless Cell Phone Tracking Now Better Than GPS

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the knows-if-you've-been-bad-or-good dept.

Cellphones 147

Sparrowvsrevolution writes "On Thursday, the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing to discuss a proposed bill to limit location tracking of electronic devices without a warrant — what it's calling the Geolocational Privacy and Surveillance Act, or the GPS Act. Ahead of that hearing, University of Pennsylvania computer science professor Matt Blaze submitted written testimony (PDF) telling Congress that phone carriers, as well as the law enforcement agencies with which they share data, can now use phones' proximity to cell towers and other sources of cellular data to track their location as precisely or even more precisely than they can with global positioning satellites. Thanks to the growing density of cell towers and the proliferation of devices like picocells and femtocells that transmit cell signals indoors, even GPS-less phones can be tracked with a high degree of precision and can offer data that GPS can't, like the location of someone inside a building or what floor they're on. With the GPS Act, Congress is considering expanding the ban on warrantless tracking of cars with GPS devices that the Supreme Court decided on in January. Blaze's testimony suggests they need to include non-GPS tracking of cell phones in that ban, a measure law enforcement agencies are strongly resisting."

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147 comments

Not always more accurate (-1, Troll)

aggles (775392) | more than 2 years ago | (#40043435)

The cell tower nearest my home is about 2 miles by crow, but 15 miles by car, on the other side of the reservoir. GPS is much more accurate.

Re:Not always more accurate (5, Insightful)

mblase (200735) | more than 2 years ago | (#40043493)

The cell tower nearest my home is about 2 miles by crow, but 15 miles by car, on the other side of the reservoir. GPS is much more accurate.

Don't they use your distance from multiple cell towers to triangulate your position?

Re:Not always more accurate (1)

Derek Pomery (2028) | more than 2 years ago | (#40043559)

Another source of data as well as triangulating based on towers, and calculating vector based on checkins would be timing advance.
I have no idea if that is logged, but if it is, that narrows your position down to half a kilometre.

Re:Not always more accurate (-1, Offtopic)

SnapJones (2642675) | more than 2 years ago | (#40043577)

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Re:Not always more accurate (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40044505)

For a second there I thought you misspelled "chickens" and it made your statement much more entertaining.

Re:Not always more accurate (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40043779)

The cell tower nearest my home is about 2 miles by crow, but 15 miles by car, on the other side of the reservoir.

We're talking about radio waves, not vampires. They cross water and don't follow the road.

Re:Not always more accurate (1)

jhoegl (638955) | more than 2 years ago | (#40043971)

Yes, and one of my concerns about this bill is that a kidnap victim was actually found by this method.

Will obtaining a warrant delay this type of thing, is it worth it?

Fine line in deed.

Re:Not always more accurate (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40044169)

Well, if we all needed an authority figure's permission to do anything at all, we'd probably all be safe, but it would suck to live that way.

Freedom for all means that some people can unfortunately abuse it. And requiring permission to invade everybody's private life and violate their rights is more important than overreacting to scares of rare events like kidnapping and terrorism.

Re:Not always more accurate (1)

amRadioHed (463061) | more than 2 years ago | (#40044277)

Usually there's a pretty substantial delay before anyone is actually reported missing. How much of a difference would getting a warrant really make? I doubt very much.

Re:Not always more accurate (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40044291)

Why don't we just install GPS devices in everyone at birth? Then there'd be no problems tracking anyone down!

Re:Not always more accurate (2)

Jeffrey_Walsh VA (1335967) | more than 2 years ago | (#40044619)

"Kidnap"? "obtaining a warrant"? Are you trolling or do you really think law enforcement would ever be expected to wait to get a warrant before rescuing a kidnap victim?

Re:Not always more accurate (3, Insightful)

tattood (855883) | more than 2 years ago | (#40045015)

do you really think law enforcement would ever be expected to wait to get a warrant before rescuing a kidnap victim?

Only if they want to convict the kidnapper. Using warrants and following the law are sort of important when it comes to convicting someone of a crime.

Re:Not always more accurate (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40045093)

Now you're confusing getting the victim's location with getting the kidnapper's location.

In any case, don't they have fast warrant processes for this sort of situation?

Re:Not always more accurate (2)

a90Tj2P7 (1533853) | more than 2 years ago | (#40045181)

do you really think law enforcement would ever be expected to wait to get a warrant before rescuing a kidnap victim?

Only if they want to convict the kidnapper. Using warrants and following the law are sort of important when it comes to convicting someone of a crime.

You're not talking about looking for evidence of a commited crime, but a violent crime (murder, rape, kidnapping) in progress. There's a very big difference.

Re:Not always more accurate (1)

tattood (855883) | more than 2 years ago | (#40045401)

You're not talking about looking for evidence of a commited crime, but a violent crime (murder, rape, kidnapping) in progress.

I agree that getting the victim back alive is the number 1 priority, but in order to convict the person responsible for the crime, the police must collect evidence. If the evidence they find was obtained illegally, i.e. found as a result of tracking a cell phone without a warrant, then all of that evidence cannot be used in court, and the kidnapper has a much better chance of getting acquitted. IANAL, but that is my understanding of how criminal law works.

Re:Not always more accurate (2)

catsRus (548036) | more than 2 years ago | (#40045217)

Law enforcement also lives in the 21st century. How long does it take to call someone to get a warrant faxed/emailed to you?

Re:Not always more accurate (1)

EvilBudMan (588716) | more than 2 years ago | (#40044041)

I'm only close to one tower. Triangulation plus GPS gives the best results on Google Maps.

Re:Not always more accurate (5, Interesting)

Fri13 (963421) | more than 2 years ago | (#40044107)

Your cell phone pings at least three cell tower (if just at range) and selects strongest one of them.
And even that your cell phone does not connect to cell, it does not mean cell have not received its signal. Cell phone simply rejects the connection either knowing it can not boost signal so it is too weak or it is just so weak that even max boost it can not hold the stable enough connection to cell.

At country land GPS is more accurate (few meters at starts but even few centimers at longer time when holding at same position, depending how accurate the clock is in device) but even with cell towers (if you just get at least three or two longer time) you can get location few tens of meters or even the estimation of the area where you can be.

GPS is great for the user. As user is the one who gets positioning as well, not just carrier. So user can give that location information to services trough data connection to get more nice features from the phone.
But really, phone without GPS doesn't mean you can not be tracked.

That is one reason why no one at battlefield is allowed to carry a own cellphone because at electronic warfare, such device is bright like a smoke grenade at daylight. Every device emmiting signal can be detected and pinpointed its location.

Re:Not always more accurate (1)

dcsmith (137996) | more than 2 years ago | (#40045331)

I'm surprised that no one has commented on the common misuse of triangulation in these discussions. The mechanism used is actually trilateration, not triangulation. I mean really - aren't we all supposed to be nerds here? :-)

Re:Not always more accurate (2)

robot256 (1635039) | more than 2 years ago | (#40044125)

Presumably they have more information than just which cell tower you are most strongly connected to. Cell towers generally have directional antennas, and have more of them in denser areas, so they will have a pretty good idea what direction from the tower you are in. Then they measure the signal strength required to reach you, and that gives an approximate distance. If there are multiple antennas on the tower, they might even get an idea of what environment you are in based on multipath reflections and stuff. Take the heading/distance data from a couple of towers, and you can get a very accurate position without being anywhere near the towers themselves.

Re:Not always more accurate (3, Informative)

MrZilla (682337) | more than 2 years ago | (#40045377)

Presumably they have more information than just which cell tower you are most strongly connected to. Cell towers generally have directional antennas, and have more of them in denser areas, so they will have a pretty good idea what direction from the tower you are in.

That is exactly right. Each cell tower has 2 - 6 cells, the borders of which are usually measured somewhat approximately by the operator. So they know which cell you are in, which tells them the rough area around the cell tower that you are in.

They also have the ability to measure round-trip time for signals sent to your phone, giving a rough estimate of the distance from the tower to you, inside your cell (this actually becomes less accurate when signal reflection is an issue).

Finally, the cell phone constantly measures _all_ cells it can find. Not just the ones belonging to your operator, but other operators as well, including (if the phone is capable) 2G, 3G and 4G cells. All this is reported back to the radio network controller to assist with handover decisions between cells, so your operator (and thus anyone else with enough authority) can access this information.

Re:Not always more accurate (1)

Col. Klink (retired) (11632) | more than 2 years ago | (#40044617)

Your nearest GPS satellite is over 10,000 miles away (and had to travel around the planet to get into orbit). I'm not sure the distance or the journey have much to do with accuracy, but I dunno, maybe you know more about this than Matt Blaze.

Re:Not always more accurate (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40044657)

If CSI is any indication, the police write a GUI interface in VB to track your position.

Re:Not always more accurate (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40045009)

"The cell tower nearest my home is about 2 miles by crow, but 15 miles by car, on the other side of the reservoir. GPS is much more accurate"

The above is NOT insightful, it is stupid and wrong.

Slashdot, how low you have sunk.

Privacy or surveillance... (2)

uniquename72 (1169497) | more than 2 years ago | (#40043443)

...You can't have both.

Re:Privacy or surveillance... (1)

mblase (200735) | more than 2 years ago | (#40043499)

...You can't have both.

In other shocking revelations, squares are not round.

Re:Privacy or surveillance... (4, Funny)

Tanktalus (794810) | more than 2 years ago | (#40043561)

I dunno, have you met many slashdotters? I'd say that most of them are square and quite round.

Re:Privacy or surveillance... (1)

Em Adespoton (792954) | more than 2 years ago | (#40043501)

Sure you can. Just not of the same data points.

Re:Privacy or surveillance... (1)

hendridm (302246) | more than 2 years ago | (#40043803)

...You can't have both.

But who here WANTS surveillance? :P

Re:Privacy or surveillance... (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#40043931)

Everyone want surveillance. The questions are how much and when.

Re:Privacy or surveillance... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40045029)

and who the subject is...

Re:Privacy or surveillance... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40044381)

Loss of privacy is just one symptom of a loss of freedom.

If you or I start up a new carrier tomorrow, we should have the freedom to decide what information we will retain, and who we will give it too. When the government requires that all carriers retain location data, and that they turn it over whenever requested, then the carrier's freedom has been taken away.

If this goes to court, it should be overturned. I say that "it should be" instead of "it will be", because over the last 40-50 years, the constitution has become whittled away so much that it hardly even matters any more.

tl;dr: Government should invent their own technology for spying on us, instead of re-appropriating our stuff.

Re:Privacy or surveillance... (5, Insightful)

EdIII (1114411) | more than 2 years ago | (#40044405)

With respect, bullshit

What you meant was, "Privacy or Mass Surveillance.... You can't have both".

Privacy in the long run will always benefit the People more than governments use of mass surveillance to allegedly provide the People with more security. The common mistake is treating the government like a regular person and evaluating their possession of information as having the same possible consequences which completely ignores the massive differences in power between both actors.

Simple surveillance, under Due Process, is not affected by creating laws to protect Privacy, or laws that ban the use of mass surveillance on people.

Law enforcement and governments will always have enough resources and technology to intercept communications and watch a single person. It is the traditional stake out, using listening devices, gathering information the old fashioned way, etc. They might not be able to do this to millions of people at one time, but that is the point. It is dangerous to allow them to do that.

Convince me that more than 10% of the population is currently engaged in conspiracies to commit heinous and violent acts against other citizens (forget that bullshit about the War on Drugs) and it *might* be a point for discussion.

The greatest danger we face is the government . That's not paranoia either, but simple observation of the facts and history.

Good work! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40043475)

From now on, I'll only make calls from stolen cell phones. Way to go gov!

This just isn't right... in any way (4, Insightful)

dryriver (1010635) | more than 2 years ago | (#40043495)

We, the consumers, pay good money for the hardware in a smartphone, including the GPS geolocation capabilities. Then some government goons come along and say "Ha ha! We'll track your location using the GPS electronics in your phone!" ------- Same with Facebook. We, the users, make Facebook a great, big site with our data and our invested time. Then the government goons come along and say "Ha Ha! We'll find out everything we want about you by poaching your Facebook data!" ------ This particular decade has very much started on the wrong foot, with regards to personal privacy and somesuch. -------- How much worse can this all get? Will we be required by law to give up ALL PRIVATE DATA because the government likes to have it? -------- These laws and personal data tracking policies are just wrong.... wrong, wrong, wrong....

Re:This just isn't right... in any way (1, Interesting)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#40043605)

If you're not a criminal, or an "unwanted race" under some future tyranny state, what does it matter that the government tracks your phone? Besides you can disappear quite easily by just pulling the battery.

The facebook issue is more seriously, but when you publish things publicly, whether it's the new facebook or the old newspaper, the government can and will collect that data. Solution: Keep quiet.

Re:This just isn't right... in any way (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40044155)

Besides you can disappear quite easily by just pulling the battery.

But I have an iPhone you insensitive clod!

Re:This just isn't right... in any way (3, Insightful)

ifwm (687373) | more than 2 years ago | (#40044531)

If you're not a criminal

Is there any phrase more overused and insulting, when brought up in a discussion about rights? Maybe "think of the children"?

Re:This just isn't right... in any way (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40045193)

This just the same old line, "If you are not guilty, then you have nothing to hide."

Re:This just isn't right... in any way (5, Insightful)

icebike (68054) | more than 2 years ago | (#40043643)

Well instead of bitching here on Slashdot, try writing (pen and paper, not email) your representative in congress and insisting they pass the Geolocational Privacy and Surveillance Act, with no watered down provisions.

Is it really so hard to get a warrant? If you can't convince a judge, why should a email to your cell provider suffice?

Re:This just isn't right... in any way (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40043661)

Oh! Come and see the violence inherent in the system! Help, help, I'm being repressed!

Seriously? (1)

oGMo (379) | more than 2 years ago | (#40043719)

Same with Facebook. We, the users, make Facebook a great, big site with our data and our invested time. Then the government goons come along and say "Ha Ha! We'll find out everything we want about you by poaching your Facebook data!"

Do you seriously think facebook stuck around because of your work and not because corporations already did the same thing and paid facebook to keep the servers on? Or do you just think that (nearly unrestricted) corporate privacy invasion is less bad than government privacy invasion?

Re:This just isn't right... in any way (4, Insightful)

ducomputergeek (595742) | more than 2 years ago | (#40043817)

There is no privacy. That's the price of modern convenience. Some of us warned folks 10+ years ago this day was coming. Most largely ignored it because of "Ooh, shiny" or "convenience".

Genie's out of the bottle. Good luck getting it back in.

Re:This just isn't right... in any way (0)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#40043955)

eww. wow, you must be some kind of super genius, having 'warned' us of the no existent ant problem.

Twit.

Nice out of context quote, btw.

Re:This just isn't right... in any way (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40043885)

If Fred and Bob meet at a restaurant, who "owns" the factoid that "Fred and Bob ate at X restaurant at Y time". That data has monetizable value, but who has the rights to sell it? Does Fred? Does Bob? Do they both have joint and several rights? Does the restaurant get to sell it?

The same goes with Facebook. What you post on the site is no longer exclusively "your private data". Any middle-schooler can (or should) realize that Facebook makes money by selling that data, and that you should expect them to sell your data.

Re:This just isn't right... in any way (4, Insightful)

spire3661 (1038968) | more than 2 years ago | (#40043889)

I hate to point this out, but WE are the government. I really despise people who talk about government like its this disconnected entity. We THE PEOPLE, make up the government, it is your FELLOW MAN who seeks to enslave you, not some faceless 'government'.

Re:This just isn't right... in any way (1)

Nocturnal Deviant (974688) | more than 2 years ago | (#40044397)

We The People Have not made up this country since FDR.

I don't know what Fellow Man your talking about...but they sure aint my fellows.

If they are so much your fellow man, go run for president and fix things.....Good luck with that.

Re:This just isn't right... in any way (3, Insightful)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 2 years ago | (#40044769)

Riddle me this then: How is it that restrictions on fine print of financial agreements between lenders and average borrowers, which garner the support of 90% of Americans in polls, aren't actually in place? How is it that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, opposed by roughly 65% of Americans for years, are still going on? How is it that even though people across the political spectrum from Tea Partiers to Occupiers are demanding that big banks be investigated for what appears to be fraud fraud worth trillions of dollars, no such investigation is taking place?

I can guess at who's demands the government is actually satisfying, but it's definitely not the general public's.

Re:This just isn't right... in any way (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40045007)

Iraq's already over bud.

Re:This just isn't right... in any way (1)

sl4shd0rk (755837) | more than 2 years ago | (#40044111)

How much worse can this all get?

Much, much worse. [imdb.com] Of course, it's very simple to put and end to. Just stop patronizing the worst offenders... but nobody wants to do that.

Re:This just isn't right... in any way (1)

CosaNostra Pizza Inc (1299163) | more than 2 years ago | (#40045013)

Its funny how some people don't mind if a big corporation like Google tracks you, or even sells your information (maybe like Facebook) but, if the GOVERNMENT does it, then its time to cry foul.

Same rules for everyone (1)

crow (16139) | more than 2 years ago | (#40043517)

What I want is to have the same rules for everyone, with the exception that the police can get a court order for special actions (searches, tracking, wiretapping, etc.). If it's legal for a private person to secretly track someone, then the police don't need a warrant. If it's not, then the police can't do it either unless they get a warrant. Any exceptions should be explicitly created by law, such as access to DMV records and criminal databases.

If we had such a simple and straight-forward interpretation of the Fourth Amendment, then the debate wouldn't be over police powers, it would be about what anyone could do.

Re:Same rules for everyone (1)

spire3661 (1038968) | more than 2 years ago | (#40043963)

This is wrong on its face. The people and the police are not of equal stature.

Re:Same rules for everyone (4, Insightful)

flink (18449) | more than 2 years ago | (#40044245)

Correct. The police should be more constrained in their actions than the average citizen. Unfortunately we've allowed things to get turned on their heads.

4th amendment. no new law required (5, Insightful)

emptybody (12341) | more than 2 years ago | (#40043565)

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Every time we pass a new law we water down the constitution.
"papers" - is not strictly paper. it is where their data is stored.
"effects" - whatever they have
"houses" - where they store themselves and their stuff.
"persons" - they themselves

what more is needed?

Re:4th amendment. no new law required (1)

ZeroSumHappiness (1710320) | more than 2 years ago | (#40043651)

A carve-out for law enforcement.

Re:4th amendment. no new law required (1)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 2 years ago | (#40043723)

Tell that to the "strict constructionists", it's gonna be hilarious. They are about as funny as biblical literalists.

Re:4th amendment. no new law required (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40044127)

WHat the fuck are you on about? "strict constructionists" would interpret the 4th as meaning, STRICTLY "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.". The carve outs and related stupidity is a result of the "living document" people, which you appear to be profoundly ignorant of. Stop discussing shit when you obviously have no idea what the fuck you're talking about, especially when all you're doing is making yourself look stupid by blaming EXACTLY THE WRONG group. What the fuck is wrong with you?

Re:4th amendment. no new law required (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40044443)

Except the Constitution clearly has a mechanism provided for amending it. If we don't like something in it or something needs to be clarified, we can do that without resorting to 'interpretation'.

Re:4th amendment. no new law required (1)

Bigby (659157) | more than 2 years ago | (#40045071)

A strict Constitutionalist does not interpret the literal meaning in the sentences. (S)He tries to interpret the spirit of the sentences at the time they were written. Otherwise, they would think that people have the right to bear arms...as in the mammal's arms.

Re:4th amendment. no new law required (2)

icebike (68054) | more than 2 years ago | (#40043825)

Except that surveillance, simply having an approximate idea where you are, is not now, and never was a search. Just like having a detective follow you around is not a search.

The fundamental problem here is that the drafters of the Constitution did not foresee technology that allowed a government to invade your privacy from a distance, and it never occurred to them that invasion of privacy itself was a problem. Therefore there is no constitutional right to privacy. A huge oversight based on the era in which the document was written, where this kind of surveillance required manpower, which was always limited.

Incorrect (3, Informative)

ifwm (687373) | more than 2 years ago | (#40044163)

"Except that surveillance, simply having an approximate idea where you are, is not now, and never was a search." Incorrect, if you read the decision on GPS, the problem was not with knowing where people were, either very specifically, or generally, but with the amount of time that knowledge was available. The previous decision makes it quite clear that even a general knowledge, over anything other than an incidental period of time, is a violation.

Re:Incorrect (3, Insightful)

amRadioHed (463061) | more than 2 years ago | (#40044571)

Some of the justices in the GPS case mostly objected to the fact that a physical device was attached to the suspects vehicle. If the tracking was entirely unintrusive as with tracking a cell phone it may have had a different outcome.

Re:Incorrect (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 2 years ago | (#40045231)

I'd suggest you read the decision. There were comments by some of the judges objecting to the narrowness of the decision. I think if it were cell phone tracking there is a decent chance they would have found that unacceptable too.

Re:4th amendment. no new law required (1)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 2 years ago | (#40044433)

Arguably, if it's ex post facto it's not surveillance, it's searching data that I collected (or someone collected ostensibly on my behalf) which should require a warrant. And and I'd be willing to bet that if the founding fathers could have predicted our nation becoming a panopticon where every man, woman and child is being surveilled (by your definition) every minute of every day, I would be willing to bet my hypothetical time machine that they would have included wording against it.

Re:4th amendment. no new law required (2)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 2 years ago | (#40044935)

Therefore there is no constitutional right to privacy.

Many Supreme Court justices and rulings would disagree with you on that point. Here's a fairly well-sourced discussion on the right of privacy [umkc.edu] .

Re:4th amendment. no new law required (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 2 years ago | (#40045291)

Therefore there is no constitutional right to privacy.

Many Supreme Court justices and rulings would disagree with you on that point. Here's a fairly well-sourced discussion on the right of privacy [umkc.edu] .

Which begins with EXACTLY what I said above: The U. S. Constitution contains no express right to privacy.
It then goes on to list the depressingly small instances where specific privacy rights are protected.
Be careful what you cite.

Wikipedia says this [wikipedia.org] :

Concerning privacy laws of the United States, privacy is not guaranteed per se by the Constitution of the United States. The Supreme Court of the United States has found that other guarantees have "penumbras" that implicitly grant a right to privacy against government intrusion, for example in Griswold v. Connecticut (1965). In the United States, the right of freedom of speech granted in the First Amendment has limited the effects of lawsuits for breach of privacy. Privacy is regulated in the U.S. by the Privacy Act of 1974, and various state laws. Certain privacy rights have been established in the United States via legislation such as the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), the Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act (GLB), and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

Re:4th amendment. no new law required (4, Insightful)

FreshlyShornBalls (849004) | more than 2 years ago | (#40043859)

Please upvote the parent here. This is EXACTLY the problem. We all know better. We know the Constitution should be protecting us and these laws are subservient to the Bill of Rights. Yet every time we allow these laws--pro or con--to be enacted, we collectively, as a Nation, say, "The Constitution is irrelevant." Of course, the more we say it, the more the police, legislators and judges believe it and act accordingly.

Re:4th amendment. no new law required (1)

jgtg32a (1173373) | more than 2 years ago | (#40043873)

I'll play

What's being searched? My understanding is they aren't accessing your phone and making it tell them where it is, the police are just homing in on a signal that your phone is emitting.

Seems to me the best why to deal with this is to just add more to privacy laws, just like other PII, a person's location is protected information.

Re:4th amendment. no new law required (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40044071)

The Constitutional right to play hide and seek!
As frequently happens around here, people have taken to calling stuff you do in public "private".
Stuff you do in public is public. People can see you, hear you, follow you, photograph you, tattle on you, and you can be convicted of crimes based on that evidence.
Privacy doesn't enter into it.

Re:4th amendment. no new law required (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40044263)

"What's being searched?"

Your location, which it has been determined, requires a warrant. If you'd read the GPS decision, you'd know this.

Re:4th amendment. no new law required (0)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 2 years ago | (#40045157)

The Ninth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America:

"The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people."

Privacy was recognized as a right some time ago. It isn't just the 4th amendment that is under attack here.

http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/conlaw/rightofprivacy.html [umkc.edu]

Re:4th amendment. no new law required (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40044171)

I'm not a lawyer, but nothing is being seized or searched, the cops are just following them using new technology, so I don't know how what you quoted applies?

Re:4th amendment. no new law required (2)

ifwm (687373) | more than 2 years ago | (#40044449)

"I'm not a lawyer, but nothing is being seized or searched"

Again, this is incorrect. I have to assume you "nothing is being searched"ers simply haven't read the GPS decision, which clearly discusses why a warrant is required. From the GPS decision

"“We hold that the government’s installation of a GPS device on a target’s vehicle, and its use of that device to monitor the vehicle’s movements, constitutes a ‘search,’”

They had a problem with monitoring a persons location without a warrant.

"“I think it’s fair to say, the use of a a GPS device like this requires a warrant where they are tracking him for a long time,” Thomas Goldstein, who has argued dozens of cases before the Supreme Court, said in a telephone interview.

Alito wrote that Scalia’s opinion was “unwise” and said it should have examined “whether respondent’s reasonable expectations of privacy were violated by the long-term monitoring of the movements of the vehicle he drove.” “For these reasons, I conclude that the lengthy monitoring that occurred in this case constituted a search under the Fourth Amendment,” Alito wrote.

Re:4th amendment. no new law required (1)

a90Tj2P7 (1533853) | more than 2 years ago | (#40045293)

"“We hold that the government’s installation of a GPS device on a target’s vehicle, and its use of that device to monitor the vehicle’s movements, constitutes a ‘search,’”

Just devil's advocate here. But you're on slashdot, you should know your operators.

You CAN turn off your phone. (3, Insightful)

BitterOak (537666) | more than 2 years ago | (#40043627)

Unlike GPS devices covertly installed on your vehicle by police, cell phones are in the user's control. You don't have to leave it turned on all the time. In particular, if you are doing something private, like visiting your mistress, you can simply turn the phone off before driving to her apartment. And if you're afraid the phone will still leak location information while in standby or power-off mode, you can simply remove the battery.

Re:You CAN turn off your phone. (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40043683)

There is an APP for th.... oh wait. You can't simply remove the battery on the iPhones. Droid users must be cheating on their wives! /not posting this from my company phone...

Re:You CAN turn off your phone. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40045359)

Well duh...Just use the tin foil in your hat to make a Faraday cage for your iPhone.

Re:You CAN turn off your phone. (2)

BitterOak (537666) | more than 2 years ago | (#40045361)

There is an APP for th.... oh wait. You can't simply remove the battery on the iPhones.

Sounds like a damn good reason not to buy an iPhone then.

Re:You CAN turn off your phone. (4, Insightful)

dietdew7 (1171613) | more than 2 years ago | (#40043797)

I don't think I should have to disable my phone to prevent the authorities from high jacking it. After all I paid for the phone and I'm a citizen not a subject. If they can convince a judge they can get a warrant, otherwise hands off.

Re:You CAN turn off your phone. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40043875)

You think turning it off disables tracking. You can't remove the battery from an iPhone so how do you know that it is really off?

Re:You CAN turn off your phone. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40043977)

The basic problem here is that you are very publicly signalling your identity and location when the phone is turned on, but you don't want anyone to listen to that signal. Although I agree that phone companies shouldn't be cooperating, the signal is still there for anyone to receive.

Re:You CAN turn off your phone. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40044243)

After all I paid for the phone and I'm a citizen not a subject. If they can convince a judge they can get a warrant, otherwise hands off.

How quaintly puritan an attitude you posses, good sir. I shall apprise good president Thomas Jefferson of your enlightened opinion.

Good morrow to you!

News bulletin: The US became a Police State a long, long time ago. Only a fool or an insane person would believe otherwise.

Still, TERRISTS!!

Re:You CAN turn off your phone. (1)

BitterOak (537666) | more than 2 years ago | (#40045383)

I don't think I should have to disable my phone to prevent the authorities from high jacking it. After all I paid for the phone and I'm a citizen not a subject. If they can convince a judge they can get a warrant, otherwise hands off.

The advantage to taking out the battery, especially when doing something private, is it protects you even when the police DO have a warrant!

Re:You CAN turn off your phone. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40043807)

Unlike GPS devices covertly installed on your vehicle by police, cell phones are in the user's control. You don't have to leave it turned on all the time. In particular, if you are doing something private, like visiting your mistress, you can simply turn the phone off before driving to her apartment. And if you're afraid the phone will still leak location information while in standby or power-off mode, you can simply remove the battery.

Well by your line of reasoning, automobile users are still in control because they could just not drive their car. You don't have to be in the car all the time. In particular, if you are doing something private, like visiting your mistress, you can simply ride the bus to her apartment. And if you're afraid the car will still leak location information while in your driveway, you can simply remove the battery...err, wait.

Re:You CAN turn off your phone. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40044195)

/. car analogy ftw.

Re:You CAN turn off your phone. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40043927)

And if you're afraid the phone will still leak location information while in standby or power-off mode, you can simply remove the battery.

I use an iPhone, you insensitive clod!

Re:You CAN turn off your phone. (1)

saveferrousoxide (2566033) | more than 2 years ago | (#40044097)

It's already non-trivial to remove the battery from an iPhone and I can pretty easily imagine a regulation that required phone manufacturers to mount the battery in such a way that removal would require destruction of the phone. That way, They'll spin it, if someone steals your phone, the provider/law enforcement will be able to track it. It will be done for only benevolent reasons. Like all these civil liberty eroding laws are. Sorry, citizen protection laws, I get so confused in my old age.

Re:You CAN turn off your phone. (1)

Fri13 (963421) | more than 2 years ago | (#40044145)

There are known cases where officials or inteligence services has tapped to cell phones what have been just turn off by button. That is one reason why in Russia in high level meetings you don't just turn phone off, but you need to remove the battery and leave them to another room.

If I remember correctly, there were even slashdot story about it few years ago.

Re:You CAN turn off your phone. (1)

xianzombie (123633) | more than 2 years ago | (#40044521)

Not just in Russia. There's plenty of places in the US where phones stored outside of an area are required to have their batteries pulled too.

A cell with a battery installed can still be used to track and eavesdrop, regardless of it's perceived power state.

Re:You CAN turn off your phone. (1)

KillaPollo (1006559) | more than 2 years ago | (#40045115)

Unlike surveillance cameras covertly installed into your television, pen and paper and in the user's control. You don't have to write on the paper all the time. In particular, if you are doing something private, like writing down your own thoughts, you can simply walk to the corner of the room in the blind spot of the surveilance camera. And if you're afraid the camera will still see you, you can simply not write on the piece of paper at all.

Faraday phone holders (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40043713)

Faraday phone holders and wallets should become popular soon :) oh wait, did I just become a tinfoilmadhatter? :D

wrongly formulated (4, Insightful)

kipsate (314423) | more than 2 years ago | (#40043749)

This seems obvious to me, but bills like this should be formulated in terms of what they actually do, regardless of the technology used.

In this case, the bill should simply state that a warrant is required when someones location is actively monitored within a certain precision for a certain time period.

Same with laws around cookies, which is a topic among lawmakers in some countries. Instead targeting cookies, these laws should address the fact that a user is uniquely identified across sessions and/or websites. Cookies are just one way to achieve this, but there are others which do not even require cookies, such IP number in combination with all sorts of data such as browser agent, os, screen resolution etc. etc. that makes any user pretty much unique even without cookies.

Re:wrongly formulated (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40043959)

The US Constitution actually covers most of these topics.

Unfourtunatly, we don't really pay much attention to it anymore.

Re:wrongly formulated (1)

gstrickler (920733) | more than 2 years ago | (#40044401)

Yes. If they just follow one simple rule, all these special laws are completely unnecessary. If the police or govt want to track you, search your property, see your activity from phone, bank, credit card, etc. transactions, they need to get a warrant. Following someone doesn't require a warrant if they're following your movement in public access spaces.

Here's the simple rule:
If the info isn't available to the public and isn't info you explicitly gave to the government, then a warrant should be required. No exceptions.

Holy shit! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40043849)

Wait wait wait, you're trying to tell me that the congress is actually planning to pass a law that doesn't fly in the face of the constitution and actually reinforces the 4th amendment?

My calendar says 5/18 not 4/1...

One solution (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 2 years ago | (#40044299)

One solution to being illegally tracked like this is to remove the battery if you are wanting to remain private.

Re:One solution (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 2 years ago | (#40045075)

Sticking the phone in an RF shielded bag will also work, however it might be a little harder on battery life.

The problem with these solutions is they defeat the purpose of carrying a phone.

Even paranoids can have enemies (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40044771)

That's why I turn my cell phone off when I'm not actually on a call. And I'm thinking of removing the battery, too.

To the Max! (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | more than 2 years ago | (#40044779)

> University of Pennsylvania computer science professor Matt Blaze...

"Awww, come on, ma! Couldn't you have named me 'Max Blaze'? Then I could have been a secret agent. Now I have to be a university professor >:-( "

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