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Tracking Cell Phones for Real-Time Traffic Data

ScuttleMonkey posted about 9 years ago | from the what-could-possibly-go-wrong dept.

Communications 125

stillgoogling writes to tell us the Associated Press is reporting that the Missouri Department of Transportation is stepping up a project to track the mass movements of cellular phones. This project is designed to use the movements of cell phones to map real-time traffic conditions statewide on more than 5,500 miles of road. From the article: "Officials say there's no Big Brother agenda in the Missouri project -- the data will remain anonymous, leaving no possibility to track specific people from their driveway to their destination."

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Uh.. (1)

mattcurrie (192138) | about 9 years ago | (#13802312)

There's an article?

Re:Uh.. (3, Funny)

pha95mlb (716234) | about 9 years ago | (#13802322)

Here you go [ap.org] . I particularly like the phrase "Even though its anonymous, it's still ominous". Try saying that 20 times after a couple of beers.

Re:Uh.. (1)

Bloke down the pub (861787) | about 9 years ago | (#13802329)

I feel a disturbance in the aether, as if a million tinfoil hats rustled, and then fell silent.

Re:Uh.. (1)

Sorthum (123064) | about 9 years ago | (#13802355)

20 times?

You need a hobby, mate. Most of us get bored and go home after 3 repetitions!

Re:Uh.. (1)

stud9920 (236753) | about 9 years ago | (#13802599)

Would that be you Budweisers or real beers ?

Re:Uh.. (1)

mrbill101 (914266) | about 9 years ago | (#13802405)

This is old news. Slashdot is getting behind. Whomever posts this stuff is way behind. I read this colum every hour. Yes I spelt colum wrong.

Done by the french ... (3, Informative)

dago (25724) | about 9 years ago | (#13802331)

It seems that INRETS (= National Institute for Transport and Safety Research) teamed up with SFR (one of the mobile operators) to do just that.

I can't find any direct link to the paper, altough somebody with an IEEE account could probably find some. It is also cited on University of Virginia Center for Transportation studies [virginia.edu] .

If somebody can link to more info ...

Here (3, Informative)

Poromenos1 (830658) | about 9 years ago | (#13802506)

Paper [tc.gc.ca] (pdf warning).

They're several years behind (4, Interesting)

sopuli (459663) | about 9 years ago | (#13802332)

This was done in Finland a long time ago. Even made it to slashdot [slashdot.org] .

Re:They're several years behind (2, Funny)

mlush (620447) | about 9 years ago | (#13802525)

This was done in Finland a long time ago. Even made it to Slashdot [slashdot.org]

And this being Slashdot even that was a dupe [slashdot.org]

Re:They're several years behind (1)

irishxpride (912480) | about 9 years ago | (#13802742)

A similar project was recently done by a group from MIT. Made it to Slashdot [slashdot.org] as well...

They are not so honest about their intentions (3, Interesting)

twitter (104583) | about 9 years ago | (#13803134)

The real intentions are closer to Every Road a Toll Road [slashdot.org] . Ten years ago, when I worked at the Louisiana Transportation Research Center, the trade magazines were full of this kind of thing.

After some thought, most reasonable people conclude that the current method of taxing gasoline works better. It's anonymous. It's cheap and easy because prices must be computed per gallon when you sell gasoline anyway. It taxes you for how much you drive and imposes no burden on those who don't use the roads.

Why do some government officials love the Big Brother way? The greedy ones realize you can squeeze much more out of people if you charge them differential rates they are unaware of. I'll bet most of you pay more for telco than you do for gasoline and roads, yet roads are more expensive to maintain than coper wires or fibers. The invasive ones realize they can track their perceived enemies. Both of these principles are in full swing in the UK, where the camera networks track people and charge those who drive downtown at the right time of day or speed. The camera networks were built to, yes you guessed it, "fight terrorism" and have manifestly failed at that. To get their wishes, they are willing to create a whole new infrastructure - the black boxes mentioned in the above link. The trade magazines were full of shine on about revenue maximization that hinted at tracking abilities.

The wired [wired.com] article points to some of the privacy concerns and shows that public officials are now aware of the issue and have to lie around it. The fact of the matter is that your cell phone can already be used to track you and that our sorry laws let that happen without much trouble or notice. Better laws would require the destruction of all data not required for billing, the destruction of that after payment and all the usual constitutional requirements to obtain so much as that. Individual tracking tools are too abusive to be allowed for people who are not convicted fellons.

Re:They are not so honest about their intentions (2, Interesting)

NixieBunny (859050) | about 9 years ago | (#13803634)

The American phone companies introduced the E911 [fcc.gov] feature, a GPS receiver inside every phone, ostensibly to provide your precise whereabouts when you dial 911, the national emergency number. I don't recall people complaining about this too much, but it's a clever way to get the tracking feature implemented without too big a hue and cry from the populace.

I don't have a cellphone, and the more spy stuff that gets attached to them, the less motivated I am to get one.

Re:They are not so honest about their intentions (2, Informative)

NutscrapeSucks (446616) | about 9 years ago | (#13804301)

The nature of cellular makes it quite easy to track you without GPS or anything fancy. Every time you enter a new "cell", your phone announce itself to the station. If the records show you entering and leaving cells along a major highway, you are most likely driving down that highway. Aggregating this data for traffic monitoring doesn't really introduce any privacy problems.

This approach was used to find OJ Simpson's White Bronco ten years ago, so it's nothing new.

What about RealTime Linux? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13802334)

Linux is *not* user friendly, and until it is linux will stay with >1% marketshare.

Take installation. Linux zealots are now saying "oh installing is so easy, just do apt-get install package or emerge package": Yes, because typing in "apt-get" or "emerge" makes so much more sense to new users than double-clicking an icon that says "setup".

Linux zealots are far too forgiving when judging the difficultly of Linux configuration issues and far too harsh when judging the difficulty of Windows configuration issues. Example comments:

User: "How do I get Quake 3 to run in Linux?"
Zealot: "Oh that's easy! If you have Redhat, you have to download quake_3_rh_8_i686_010203_glibc.bin, then do chmod +x on the file. Then you have to su to root, make sure you type export LD_ASSUME_KERNEL=2.2.5 but ONLY if you have that latest libc6 installed. If you don't, don't set that environment variable or the installer will dump core. Before you run the installer, make sure you have the GL drivers for X installed. Get them at [some obscure web address], chmod +x the binary, then run it, but make sure you have at least 10MB free in /tmp or the installer will dump core. After the installer is done, edit /etc/X11/XF86Config and add a section called "GL" and put "driver nv" in it. Make sure you have the latest version of X and Linux kernel 2.6 or else X will segfault when you start. OK, run the Quake 3 installer and make sure you set the proper group and setuid permissions on quake3.bin. If you want sound, look here [link to another obscure web site], which is a short HOWTO on how to get sound in Quake 3. That's all there is to it!"

User: "How do I get Quake 3 to run in Windows?"
Zealot: "Oh God, I had to install Quake 3 in Windoze for some lamer friend of mine! God, what a fucking mess! I put in the CD and it took about 3 minutes to copy everything, and then I had to reboot the fucking computer! Jesus Christ! What a retarded operating system!"

So, I guess the point I'm trying to make is that what seems easy and natural to Linux geeks is definitely not what regular people consider easy and natural. Hence, the preference towards Windows.

Re:What about RealTime Linux? (1)

mrbill101 (914266) | about 9 years ago | (#13802447)

You are a fool stop posting this asshole

submitted 2 weeks ago (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13802346)

i submitted this 2 weeks ago but i didn't use "stillgoogling" as my name....

Re:submitted 2 weeks ago (2, Funny)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | about 9 years ago | (#13803077)

i submitted this 2 weeks ago but i didn't use "stillgoogling" as my name....

I don't know what you're complaining about. The Slashdot editors' random submission selection system is totally and completely unbiased.

1984 (3, Insightful)

kcyber (652633) | about 9 years ago | (#13802352)

I don't think that the state will invest money only for traffic control purposes. Traffic was also the excuse for installing cameras on roads during the 2004 olympic games in Athens but were used to track people during demonstrations...

Re:1984 (1)

KiloByte (825081) | about 9 years ago | (#13802394)

Yeah, this system would be just perfect to catch those who exceed speed limits -- and this is just a start.

Re:1984 (1)

wealthychef (584778) | about 9 years ago | (#13803803)

While I agree that government surveillance is a potential problem here, I am not in favor of people exceeding the speed limit anyhow. A system such as this would also be perfect for balancing traffic around congestion, thus limiting traffic issues such as those around where I live. So the potential good from this is enormous. I just hope we continue to preserve the anonymity.

Unfortunately, you know that what will really happen is that a huge database tracking literally every cell phone's' movements will be set up in the name of fighting terrorism. The database will be secret and inaccessible to the public. Paranoia? I don't know. Anyone know what ever happened to the ECHELON project [hiwaay.net] , which is a system intended to monitor literally every piece of human communication on the planet and mine it for analysis later?

Re:1984 (4, Interesting)

Dun Malg (230075) | about 9 years ago | (#13804488)

Anyone know what ever happened to the ECHELON project, which is a system intended to monitor literally every piece of human communication on the planet and mine it for analysis later?

Paranoid nutcases with little knowledge of basic electronic intelligence strategy have flooded the internet with hysterical rants and lunatic ravings about ECHELON. It's almost always traceable to a specific error in reading comprehension, i.e. the failure to distinguish between "capable of monitoring any communication" and "capable of monitoring all communication". The former is true. The latter is not. There does not exist enough electronic analytical capacity to monitor all communications. Anyone who has worked in electronic intelligence knows that one of the primary focuses is tasking: knowing when and where to apply limited collection resources. 99.99% of the electronic communication in the world is inconsequential chatter, and is very easily identifiable as such. NEWS FLASH! The NSA knows your 90 year old grandmother's phone calls aren't worth listening to, so they don't! I speak from experience as a former Signal Intelligence Analyst with the US Army-- they spend most of their time trying to RDUCED the amount of stuff they have to analyze. Really, the theory of "ECHELON listens to everything, all the time" fails the common sense test on so many levels, it boggles the mind why anyone would take it seriously. So the computer flags (say) every utterance of the word "bomb" and "embassy" or some such, eh? Well THEN what? Who goes through the enormous daily log of such flagged conversations? The obvious answer is that they cut down the log by not bothering to monitor communications between irrelevant parties. The tin foil hat crowd thinks the government is listening to them, when the truth is the government doesn't give a shit about them because they don't matter.

Re:1984 --- Then DO something about it. 2+2=4! (2)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13802422)

Write, e-mail, or call the Missouri Department of Transportation & tell them what you think.

Missouri Department of Transportation
105 W. Capitol Ave.
Jefferson City, MO 65102-0270
Phone: 573-751-2551
Fax: 573-751-6555
Toll Free: 888-275-6636
http://www.modot.state.mo.us/ [state.mo.us]

Fixing traffic results in other benefits. (4, Interesting)

oneiros27 (46144) | about 9 years ago | (#13802425)

But you forget -- in some regions, traffic is a major issue. (eg, the Washington, DC metro area) -- if legislators can get get traffic issues cleaned up in an area that has major problems, it could mean an easy re-election for them.

If they're actually thinking about the general population, and not themselves, they'd be looking at the other benefits that something like this could provide --

  • Cheaper ways to estimate traffic growth, and determine where to allocate money for capacity improvements.
  • Faster detection of accidents, for improved emergency response.
  • The ability for the population to better plan their routes to work, resulting in a happer, more productive workforce.
  • The ability for trucking companies to better plan their routes, possibly making it more likely for them to route through the state (resulting in sales from diesel, food, lodging, etc)

Yes, there are potentially less-than-ethical reasons for wanting a system like this, but there are pleny of reasons why something like this is a benefit for the general population -- now, is the money for this project worthwhile? For all we know, it's being done because one of the politicians is getting kickbacks, and they're spending too much, as compared to other, more worthwhile projects for their state (in terms of Benefit/Cost Ratio or some other measure used to determine project viability)

(I didn't read the orginal article, so some of this may have already been covered. Of course, there wasn't a link to it, so everyone has an excuse this time. This might also show how much work some of the editors do to look at articles being linked to ... as opposed to looking for articles that are controversial and/or don't hold up, to result in 'animated discussion [slashdot.org] ')

System in Minnesota (3, Insightful)

bb_referee (548705) | about 9 years ago | (#13804696)

The Minnesota Department of Transportation has real-time traffic tracking capabilities (http://www.dot.state.mn.us/tmc/trafficinfo/map/re freshmap.html [state.mn.us] ) in the Minneapolis-St.Paul metropolitian area that are completely anonymous. Mn/DOT embeds detectors in the pavement down the center of each lane of the freeway and on every entrance ramp to measure volume, occupancy, speed, and flow. They use this information to control the freeway entrance meters. We are one of the few metro areas in the U.S. that effectively uses on-ramp meters to assist in controlling traffic flow during the dreaded rush hours.

This seems like a much better way to gather really useful traffic information than tracking cellular phone movements, especially with how spotty cellular tower coverage can be.

Re:1984 (1)

IO ERROR (128968) | about 9 years ago | (#13803122)

Oh yes they will track individuals [ioerror.us] with this technology. You heard it here first.

It starts with the first time some police officer gets the bright idea in his head, and from there it never ends.

Text with FNORD-o-VISION (2, Insightful)

Jace of Fuse! (72042) | about 9 years ago | (#13802356)

"Officials say there's no Big Brother agenda in the Missouri project (outside of the obvious)-- the data will remain anonymous (Unless we want to watch a specific person), leaving no possibility to track specific people from their driveway to their destination (without a reason, though any reason at all will do)."

Re:Text with FNORD-o-VISION (2, Interesting)

James Crid (568495) | about 9 years ago | (#13802391)

Exactly. The fact is that the data is not anonymous, so it will end up being usable to track people. Not a problem in most societies... but when you can get a visit from the Secret Service for making an anti-Bush poster [boingboing.net] then I think anyone's correct to be asking questions...

Re:Text with FNORD-o-VISION (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | about 9 years ago | (#13802884)

I think anyone's correct to be asking questions

A very few things are explicitly excepted from free speach in the US - advocating violent overthrow of the government or threats against the person of the president. It is the job of the secret service to investigate these threats against the president, and it has been doing this for a long time without any history of abuse of power. I don't think this poster incident is at all outside the scope what they should be doing considering the history of presidential assassinations.

What concerns me much more is the fact that there is a history of abuse of power by the FBI and IRS against 'enemies' lists, and of course the Patriot Act is an affront to personal freedoms. The existance of this sort of capability is an invitation to abuse by organizations with a questionable track record.

Re:Text with FNORD-o-VISION (4, Informative)

keraneuology (760918) | about 9 years ago | (#13803211)

It is the job of the secret service to investigate these threats against the president, and it has been doing this for a long time without any history of abuse of power.

Acting on a tip from a Wal*Mart photo clerk, the Secret Service visited a high school and confiscated a posted depicting a student giving a "thumbs down" gesture to a photo of Bush. The last time I checked the confiscation of personal property required due process and expressing dissatisfaction of either government in general or even specific officials was explicitly allowed. I'd say this counts as a fairly obvious abuse of authority.

Other sterling examples of abuse of power on the part of the secret service include:

The arrest of husband and wife Nicole and Jeff Rank for wearing T-Shirts that read "love America, hate Bush" (who were otherwise not disruptive)

The official policy of the Secret Service (since rescinded) of segregating and concealing protesters at public appearances

Janet Voorhies and two companions were denied entry to a Bush event on the grounds that they were wearing T-Shirts that read "Protect Our Civil Liberties"

Perry Patterson was arrested for simply saying "no" when Cheney declared that Bush has made our world safer

No history of any abuse of power? According to official accounts the secret service has a 0% rate of abuses of power within their ranks. This is simply impossible: no agency can make the correct hiring calls 100% of the time and any claims to the contrary displays an abuse of power by covering up mistakes - at the expense of those who were violated.

Having a perfect track record is impossible: having a very public record of swiftly correcting any problems isn't.

Re:Text with FNORD-o-VISION (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | about 9 years ago | (#13803600)

The arrest of husband and wife Nicole and Jeff Rank for wearing T-Shirts that read "love America, hate Bush" (who were otherwise not disruptive)

Here are news articles describing some of these events:
---------------------
CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Two Corpus Christi residents were arrested during President Bush's visit to the West Virginia Capitol to honor the country's veterans and gather support for invading Iraq.

Nicole and Jeffery Rank were taken out from among the crowd of about 6,500 packed into the Capitol's north courtyard in restraints by police. They were issued citations for trespassing and released, said Jay Smithers, acting director of the Capitol police force.

"We were told we couldn't be here because we were wearing these shirts that said we were against Bush," Nicole Rank shouted as police rushed her out.

Smithers said the pair had tickets to the event and wore clothing over their anti-Bush T-shirts. Once through the security checkpoint, they removed their outer layers and mingled in the crowd.

"We asked them to go out to the designated protest area but they refused," Smithers said. "They told our people they would not leave and sat down on their hands. We didn't have any choice."
-------------
George W. Bush's T-shirt police got their family.

Campaign workers removed the Millers -- Marvin, Barbara and Theresa -- from Wendler Arena on Thursday minutes before the president's motorcade rolled up
----------

These incidents you describe were clearly not the work of the Secret Service but rather Bush campaign operations. So I would advise you to stop slandering the Secret Service and rather get your facts straight.

Re:Text with FNORD-o-VISION (1)

Insightfill (554828) | about 9 years ago | (#13804499)

Your point is valid in many cases - the Secret Service is usually a very professional bunch, but I believe in the case of Janet Voorhies, she was approached by several people from campaign operations who had presented themselves as Secret Service, so that's a grey area. They never stated it but, dressed and acted the part. Secret Service answered to them, as well.

Actual charges can be dropped or dismissed, but the ability to arrest and expel someone under threat of force is itself. Drug laws for example would allow full destruction of a car in the search for drugs. When not found, the vehicle pieces might or might not be returned. RICO confiscations of cash and property are a major source of income for many localities; are you aware that in a RICO confiscation, the PROPERTY is essentially accused of the crime, and at a lower standard of guilt (preponderance of evidence). As a person who's been a witness to a crime, I know how it is to have the investigating police threaten you with arrest and prosecution if you don't tell the story the way they want it. "Impeding an investigation, lying to officers," etc.

Re:Text with FNORD-o-VISION (1)

keraneuology (760918) | about 9 years ago | (#13804573)

These incidents you describe were clearly not the work of the Secret Service but rather Bush campaign operations. So I would advise you to stop slandering the Secret Service and rather get your facts straight.

Please consult your nearest dictionary regarding the difference between slander and libel. That said, please refer to the 329,000 hits returned by google for this search [makeashorterlink.com]

A couple of blurbs that stand out follow:

As stated by one of its own procedure manuals, the Secret Service is not supposed to segregate protesters. However, when local police officers have testified in these cases they almost always confirm the Secret Service's orders to segregate protesters in a discriminatory manner. http://www.satyamag.com/apr04/pascarella.html [satyamag.com]

The SS has officially denied having anything to do with es- tablishing the zones, however, SS representatives have acknowledged they do. Police officers in several states have testified or made public statements, that the Se- cret Service ordered them to keep protesters out of sight of the president. http://makeashorterlink.com/?K1F531DFB [makeashorterlink.com]

Now please understand me: my observations are neither pro-Bush nor anti-Bush. I think Bush does a fine job on some issues and a horrible job on others. I personally would never attend a protest rally but that's just me and my personal opinion. I am neither for nor against people who do prostest and/or support Bush (or any other president, for that matter) and have a complaint only with the attempt to hide (at best) or silence (at worst) dissent for the news service - all of which is staged anyway.

Has the secret service overstepped their bounds to illegally suppress dissenting speech? Unquestionably. Did this work in the favor of Bush(II)? Yes. Did this work in the favor of Clinton? Yes. Did this work in the favor of Bush(I)? Yes. For every president since the secret service started protecting presidents? Probably. There is nothing libelous about pointing out truth, nor is there anything particularly mean-spirited about doing so. Every president wants to look good on the telly and every president will use whatever resources are at his disposal to go about this. This is politics as usual and transcend red, blue, left, right, politics and partisanship.

Personally, I think this is wrong. I personally think that people should be allowed to express their opinions, if and only if they are non-violent, non-menacing and non-threatening in the process. Wear a T-Shirt with all kinds of "support this" or "denounce that". Be happy that a local merchant made a few bucks on the sale. But any law enforcement official who says "you can't stand here with those words, now move along or be arrested" is in violation of the concept of free speech. I can ignore a message with which I disagree, I expect the president to do no less. I also expect the president to order his employees and supporters to do the same.

Old Tech (4, Interesting)

JaredOfEuropa (526365) | about 9 years ago | (#13802358)

Our company has been experimenting with this idea since a year or two, to measure the traffic on smaller "B" roads, that unlike highways do not have traffic measuring equiment built into the asphalt. Here is a short article [planet.nl] (In Dutch, use Babelfish), and the site with the traffic information [brabant.nl] (Type in the 6 digit number shown into the "log in" box). They obtain phone location data from one or more GSM providers. The data has been filtered so they only get generic location data; no phone numbers or other identifiers are provided.

Yay! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13802397)

I for one welcome our new cellular overlords!

Can you hear me now?

Quantum theory of traffic management (4, Interesting)

n0dalus (807994) | about 9 years ago | (#13802400)

I have a theory which states that traffic, when essentially quantized (grouped into bunches of vehicles moving between traffic lights), exhibits several quantum mechanisms.
For example, whether or not a quantum of traffic (bunch of cars) reaches their intended destinations, the affects on the traffic of that area are the same as if they really did reach their intended destinations. This is essentially because people generally choose routes which they think will be the fastest or easiset, and people think "Oh it's Friday afternoon on the start of a long weekend, lots of people will be going out of the city for holidays down highway X, I'll go a different way." Hence whether or not a quantum of traffic is going somewhere, people avoid them just the same.
This can be simulated by a computer in a combination with this kind of system, to very accurately time traffic light sequences so as to reduce the average waiting time per vehicle across a large area. In theory it is possible to quantize traffic (eg, stop/allow single cars until they end up in a bigger group) and time traffic lights so that almost no waiting at traffic lights is needed. As long as you travel within one of the quanta you would have green lights all the way.

Re:Quantum theory of traffic management (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13802672)

So what if two quanta cross? Build a bridge for one over the other? Your theory is cool. However it's not red lights that are causing traffic, it's too many cars per quanta. That and rubbernecking. If people stopped rubbernecking, there would never be a problem, if you ask me.

Keep on thinking different.

Re:Quantum theory of traffic management (1)

n0dalus (807994) | about 9 years ago | (#13802903)

Certainly if it's unavoidable that two quanta cross, then either one of them must stop, or there needs to be a bridge. However in most cases it should be avoidable, as the gaps between quanta on one road should be made to coincide with times that quanta will pass from an intersecting road. For best efficiency one of the roads may need to have it's average speed reduced (a small percentage of cars stopped) to allow maximum efficiency of the system of a whole.
The system has other benefits as well, like being able to rapidly adapt to changing road conditions (emergency evacuations, car accidents blocking the road, roadworks, emergency vehicles and large public events.) It also discourages speeding, since if you speed you end up moving out of your quantum so you're far more likely to get red lights. I imagine that fuel efficiency would also be greatly improved, with the majority of people not having to stop and start all the time.

Re:Quantum theory of traffic management (1)

squarooticus (5092) | about 9 years ago | (#13803596)

Yeah, that works until you have actual capacity issues like we do in Boston: there simply isn't enough road space for all the cars that want to travel on a given route at a given time. Boston traffic is a Blotto bag: 5 lbs of shit in a 4 lb bag.

Re:Quantum theory of traffic management (1)

bmsleight (710084) | about 9 years ago | (#13803744)

It already in operation, in most cities in some form.

Good description of UTC [sefton.gov.uk] and SCOOT [scoot-utc.com]

Basically SCOOT (Split Cycle Offset Optimisation Technique) is adaptive and responds automatically to traffic fluctuation. It slipts traffic into platoons.

London,UK runs mainframe computers to change the Traffic Signal timing every second.

Re:Quantum theory of traffic management (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13804214)

How come when water is squeezed through a narrow pipe it speeds up? When traffic squeezes to one lane everything slows down.

Re:Quantum theory of traffic management (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13804459)

water is somewhat compressible.

you do not want cars to get compressed, especially when you're inside of any of them.

how's that?

"data will remain anonymous".... BS (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13802403)

"Officials say there's no Big Brother agenda in the Missouri project -- the data will remain anonymous, leaving no possibility to track specific people from their driveway to their destination." Maybe for the trial run & to get approval it will remain anonymous - but just like the video cameras put up on american taxpayer paid roads and intersections "for traffic purposes", it won't take long before this technology, pitched as one thing, will be used for another. Coming from a friend in law enforcement - those video cameras are used for whatever they want.

Solution: Power Off Cell Phone for Privacy... (4, Insightful)

Ron Bennett (14590) | about 9 years ago | (#13802407)

Simple solution is to power off the cell phone; some newer models are rumored to never truly power off - simple work-around if unsure / paranoid is to then place the phone into a shielded bag similar to what is provided to folks who use EZPass.

Cell phone tracking is already so prevalent that use for traffic monitoring is merely another extension of the extensive data collection that's already being going on for quite some time from cell phone users, including actual data, such as text messages sent/received.

On an aside, most folks have no real need to always have their cell phone on when driving - let the voice mail take calls and help keep the roads safer; due to lawsuits some companies forbid use of cell phones while driving, so why even leave the phone on...

Ron Bennett

Re:Solution: Power Off Cell Phone for Privacy... (3, Insightful)

drewxhawaii (922388) | about 9 years ago | (#13802507)

simple work-around if unsure / paranoid is to then place the phone into a shielded bag similar to what is provided to folks who use EZPass
why not just remove the battery?

Re:Solution: Power Off Cell Phone for Privacy... (1)

Cafe Alpha (891670) | about 9 years ago | (#13802531)

why not just remove the battery? Because that suggestion would actually work?

Re:Solution: Power Off Cell Phone for Privacy... (1)

Karma_fucker_sucker (898393) | about 9 years ago | (#13802772)

why not just remove the battery? Because that suggestion would actually work?

Or, they want to preserve the phone book listings stored in the phone?

Re:Solution: Power Off Cell Phone for Privacy... (1)

ben0207 (845105) | about 9 years ago | (#13803027)

In pretty much every phone made since the 80s the phone numbers etc are stored on the SIM card, which is non-volatile.

Even in phones where they are stored internally, it's on a ROM chip.

Re:Solution: Power Off Cell Phone for Privacy... (1)

Shafe (72598) | about 9 years ago | (#13803052)

Yeah, I saw that episode of 24 also--even if you turn off your cell phone, towers can still passively locate you.

I think this is a great idea really and provides an interesting solution to a complex problem. And again if you don't want to take part, just turn off your phone. But honestly--what can we do about it anyway? Our phones are already being tracked by the phone companies, so your paranoid tin-foil-hat people have already lost the battle for anonymity. Get over it people! Big Brother is watching you...if you do anything wrong. :)

Are prepaid phones anonymous? (2, Interesting)

drewxhawaii (922388) | about 9 years ago | (#13804402)

I guess that would be the only way to go. Pay cash for a prepaid phone.

Re:Solution: Power Off Cell Phone for Privacy... (1)

VATechTigger (884976) | about 9 years ago | (#13802532)

hell, not only do I now have a tinfoil hat, so does my cellphone.

Re:Solution: Power Off Cell Phone for Privacy... (1, Insightful)

penix1 (722987) | about 9 years ago | (#13803115)

"why not just remove the battery?"

Why not just throw the damned thing away? I don't own a cell phone and never will. If you can't get me at home / work then it means I don't want to be gotten!

B.

Re:Solution: Power Off Cell Phone for Privacy... (3, Interesting)

Chocolate Teapot (639869) | about 9 years ago | (#13802590)

Typical. Somebody announces a scheme which may, actually be of benefit to society and your immediate reaction is to suggest a means of ensuring it will fail. I understand that many people do not like the idea of their movements being tracked, but at some point you have to get over your paranoia and take initiatives like this at face value.
Officials say there's no Big Brother agenda in the Missouri project -- the data will remain anonymous, leaving no possibility to track specific people from their driveway to their destination.

Do you think that they may actually be telling the truth and could in fact be trying to make life better? Nah! Conspiracy theories are much more fun!

My Bad .. replied to wrong post... (1)

Chocolate Teapot (639869) | about 9 years ago | (#13802615)

Oooops! What I said still stands, but just scroll down a couple of posts and figure out for your self who I was responding to. Damned sticky trackpad :)

Re:Solution: Power Off Cell Phone for Privacy... (2, Insightful)

rhsanborn (773855) | about 9 years ago | (#13802699)

Regardless of their actual intentions, I do remember hearing something about politicians promising that our SSN's will never become some national identification number also. It doesn't matter what they say right now, it matters that they will ahve the legislation and the technology to do things that may severly limit privacy and because they have it they will use it.

Re:Solution: Power Off Cell Phone for Privacy... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13802932)

I believe what *they* say might be true.

I worry about the state AG three years from now, or the FBI in the same time period.

Re:Solution: Power Off Cell Phone for Privacy... (1)

rossdee (243626) | about 9 years ago | (#13803247)

But powering off cell phones while driving will definitely be a benefit to society. There will be less accidents.

Re:Solution: Power Off Cell Phone for Privacy... (2, Insightful)

keraneuology (760918) | about 9 years ago | (#13803282)

Officials say there's no Big Brother agenda in the Missouri project -- the data will remain anonymous, leaving no possibility to track specific people from their driveway to their destination.

Do you think that they may actually be telling the truth and could in fact be trying to make life better? Nah! Conspiracy theories are much more fun!

But they aren't telling the truth: the claim that there is no possibility to track specific people simply isn't in line with the technology that is available out there. The enhanced 911 services that include GPS chips in cell phones were specifically designed so police and other authorities could identify the specific location of specific individuals. Nor is GPS even necessary to identify location: the most recent edition of Microsoft Streets & Trips (2006) has a "locate me" function that searches for local wireless signals and triangulates one's location accordingly. While this specific project has no aims of tracking the location of specific individuals the technology involved could clearly and easily be reallocated to a project that does.

There is no conspiracy theory here: the population has elected a body of officials that takes their assumed responsibilities very seriously and correctly believe that the citizenry as a whole wants them to behave in this fashion as if people really didn't want this stuff then they would elect into office people who would never allow these projects to proceed. The police are charged with catching the bad guys. A system that can pinpoint the location of every car can quickly catch a car thief, a reported kidnapper or a hit and run driver. When asked if they would like the cops to quickly catch these bad guys most people would say yes, so the cops assume that they have license to proceed. When an Amber Alert goes out, wouldn't it be much easier for a cop to just hit a button and see that the suspect's car just passed exit 237 on I-5 at 50mph?

Everybody wants the bad guys to be tracked, but since you aren't a bad guy you don't want to be tracked. The best solution is to only elect people into office who have high moral standards and a solid-to-the-core belief that governmental abuse is bad, but for the past generation at least these are precisely the people who aren't elected into office.

The government is like a sewer: what you get out of it depends on what you put into it. If you don't like the way things are being run, then either vote for somebody who will run things the way you want or run for office yourself.

Re:Solution: Power Off Cell Phone for Privacy... (2, Insightful)

Chocolate Teapot (639869) | about 9 years ago | (#13803560)

But they aren't telling the truth: the claim that there is no possibility to track specific people simply isn't in line with the technology that is available out there

I think you are missing the point. Sure, there is a possibility to track individuals via their cellphone, but guess what? They don't this scheme in place to be able to do that. That is the very basis on which the proposed system will work. What they are saying is that with their system they will not be able to identify a specific person. They simply want to locate & count mobile phones anonymously to identify where the herd is stampeding. If the authorities want to track you, they will track you. You can be assured of that. If that is their desire, why would they try to hide behind a scheme like this? They would just do it.

P.S. I know where you live :)

Re:Solution: Power Off Cell Phone for Privacy... (2, Insightful)

Secret Agent X23 (760764) | about 9 years ago | (#13804766)

Do you think that they may actually be telling the truth and could in fact be trying to make life better? Nah! Conspiracy theories are much more fun!

Maybe they really are sincere about what they're saying. But that doesn't rule out the possibility that policies could change some time in the future. Anything that can be abused will be, sooner or later.

Re:Solution: Power Off Cell Phone for Privacy... (1)

jordie (604519) | about 9 years ago | (#13802839)

If you still want to receive calls while the phone is in the bag make sure to leave the antenna sticking out. ;)

Re:Solution: Power Off Cell Phone for Privacy... (1)

mobets (101759) | about 9 years ago | (#13803700)

Didn't work. Just stuck my phone into 2 such bags (nested), and I might have lost one bar on my 3 bar signal. Also, my Bluetooth headset worked through the bags. I always figured it would work, but I guess not.

Re:Solution: Power Off Cell Phone for Privacy... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13804751)

At work we have to test our phone software to make sure it is reasonably well-behaved when the phone goes out of coverage. To accomplish this, we wrap them in a metal mesh cloth where the mesh density is appropriate to the radio technology in use, CDMA vs. GSM etc. We have to wrap some of the newer handset models several times in order to make them drop offline.

give them an inch... (1)

La Fourmi Nihiliste (906448) | about 9 years ago | (#13802410)

...and they'll want the whole mileage you make. whould any goverment official really SAY they are planning to spy on the poulation?? Does anyone remeber ANY government that announced such a spying plan BEFORE putting it in place?? seriously, this is just the infrastructure necessary to actualy get to the big brother level. the people putting it in place won't be the ones who get to use it to spy: this is just unlocking the door...

As if by magic (3, Informative)

James Crid (568495) | about 9 years ago | (#13802424)

a Wired article [wired.com] appears...

AP Article (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13802428)

Link to original AP article [ap.org]

A link to the article? (4, Informative)

oneiros27 (46144) | about 9 years ago | (#13802444)

When an editor decides to rewrite the copy, it helps to make sure the meat is still there -- in this case, the actual link to the article.

So that other people don't have to waste time like I did, here are a few assorted articles on the topic (some are marked as specifically from the AP):

Re:A link to the article? (1)

James Crid (568495) | about 9 years ago | (#13802646)

and there is a similar story today in The Observer about a plan by the UK government to monitor traffic flow by license plate recognition [guardian.co.uk] . (In the UK, we call them 'number plates', if you wonder what the article is going on about).

Re:A link to the article? (1)

njyoder (164804) | about 9 years ago | (#13803785)

I know. I submitted this too and I actually included links, even one to the official website of the company contracted to do with work which specified some technical details. Why did they choose this briefer version which leaves out key details? They also forgot to mention that it doesn't use GPS capatabilities in cell phones, it uses signal analysis of the cell phones as they pass from tower to tower and overlays the data over maps to get an idea of traffic flow. In other words, they can't pinpoint exact positions of anyone, just rough positions of large groups of people /on roads/.

I invented a new way to map traffic conditions.... (3, Insightful)

Bob Cat - NYMPHS (313647) | about 9 years ago | (#13802479)

Just count the fucking CARS!!!

Re:I invented a new way to map traffic conditions. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13802567)

Isn't the true average speed of the said cars much more interesting if you want to know your ETA to her place?

Re:I invented a new way to map traffic conditions. (1)

Bob Cat - NYMPHS (313647) | about 9 years ago | (#13802706)

Nah, I make her come to get me. She texts me and tells me to stop reading /. and come out to her car.

By the way, I'm not joking.

Re: Just count the fucking CARS!!! (2, Funny)

CagedBear (902435) | about 9 years ago | (#13802787)

The perfect state job:

"seven hundred thirty two thousand three hundred fifty two"
"seven hundred thirty two thousand three hundred fifty three"
"seven hundred thirty two thousand ummm.... ah shit!"
"one"
"two"
"three"...

Airplane interference? (3, Funny)

bhmit1 (2270) | about 9 years ago | (#13802541)

So what happens when someone forgets to turn off their phone on an airplane?

"Wow, traffic is really flying on the I-95 corridor"

Re:Airplane interference? (1)

Skater (41976) | about 9 years ago | (#13802933)

Traffic flying on I-95? They'll know it's an error, trust me. :)

--From a guy that spends WAY too much time on I-95...

If I'm being chased by the cops... (2, Funny)

yamum (893083) | about 9 years ago | (#13802591)

and there's a fork in the road. If they see that 99% of people go left and 1% goes right then they'll know 99% chance I'll go left.

So. Then I think they think I'll go left, so I'll go right.

But they think that I think that they think I'll go left to go right so they go left.

But I think they think that I think that they think .... I'm confused.

Tie it to a dog... (1)

Karma_fucker_sucker (898393) | about 9 years ago | (#13802808)

and then get the dog to chase its tail. The cops will then think your just driving in really small circles. You then make your gettaway while they're looking for you.

Re:If I'm being chased by the cops... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13804242)

touche

data will remain anonymous (1)

sl4shd0rk (755837) | about 9 years ago | (#13802612)

...Until further notice. Please check the 'I agree' box next to your signature to show you have read the contract agreement (which we know you didn't).

You heard him. Now get to it! (1)

Argonne (913222) | about 9 years ago | (#13802617)

You heard the man. In order to assist this research, you must talk on the phone as much as possible when driving around. None of this wimpy "pulling off to the side" or paying attention to the road. Those of you reading Slashdot while driving: You know who you are. Now, take that other hand off the steering wheel and pick up the phone. NOW!

yeah (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13802692)

*_g_o_a_t_s_e_x_*_g_o_a_t_s_e_x_*_g_o_a_t_s_e_x_*
g_______________________________________________g
o_/_____\_____________\____________/____\_______o
a|_______|_____________\__________|______|______a
t|_______`._____________|_________|_______:_____t
s`________|_____________|________\|_______|_____s
e_\_______|_/_______/__\\\___--___\\_______:____e
x__\______\/____--~~__________~--__|_\_____|____x
*___\______\_-~____________________~-_\____|____*
g____\______\_________.--------.______\|___|____g
o______\_____\______//_________(_(__>_\___|_____o
a_______\___.__C____)_________(_(____>_|__/_____a
t_______/\_|___C_____)/______\_(_____>_|_/______t
s______/_/\|___C_____)__TACO__|_(___>_/__\_______s
e_____|___(____C_____)\______/__//__/_/_____\___e
x_____|____\__|_____\\_________//_(__/_______|__x
*____|_\____\____)___`----___--'_____________|__*
g____|__\______________\_______/____________/_|_g
o___|______________/____|_____|__\____________|_o
a___|_____________|____/_______\__\___________|_a
t___|__________/_/____|_________|__\___________|t
s___|_________/_/______\__/\___/____|__________|s
e__|_________/_/________|____|_______|_________|e
x__|__________|_________|____|_______|_________|x
*_g_o_a_t_s_e_x_*_g_o_a_t_s_e_x_*_g_o_a_t_s_e_x_*
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It's a good idea (1)

confusion (14388) | about 9 years ago | (#13802712)

It's got to be more cost effective than placing all of the speed sensors like they've done in Georgia ( available on www.georgia-navigator.com)

Jerry
http://www.cyvin.org/ [cyvin.org]

Re:It's a good idea (1)

ptbarnett (159784) | about 9 years ago | (#13803570)

It's got to be more cost effective than placing all of the speed sensors like they've done in Georgia ( available on www.georgia-navigator.com)

An article in Wired [wired.com] says:

Missouri expects to spend less than $3 million a year on the service, Rahn said, although the exact price won't be known until the contract is finalized. Maryland is spending $1.9 million, although the entire Baltimore project costs nearly $5.6 million, said Mike Zezeski, director of real-time traffic operations for the Maryland Department of Transportation.

By contrast, the San Francisco Bay area spent about $35 million over several years to install roadside scanners and develop computer programs, websites and call centers for a real-time traffic service based on electronic toll passes, said Randy Rentschler, a spokesman for the region's Metropolitan Transportation Commission.

The same service is offered in Houston: Houston TranStar [houstontranstar.org] . It can be downloaded onto a web-enabled phone.

The data is also provided to XM Radio, who offers it for car navigation systems that can display it on the screen in real-time: http://www.xmradio.com/xmnavtraffic/ [xmradio.com] .

My Acura RL has this feature, and I wish that they would implement some form of this in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area.

Patented Long Ago (3, Informative)

junge_m (410514) | about 9 years ago | (#13802759)

This approach has been patented long ago. The latest US Patent on is 6,577,946 [uspto.gov] which has references to all the olds one covering basically the same stuff.

again, out of control. (1)

CDPatten (907182) | about 9 years ago | (#13802760)

Wow, could there be any larger in your face privacy violations then this? "Hey we are going to track all our citizens in real-time. Don't worry its only for traffic... until a divorce lawyer subpoenas the logs for his case"

Automobile registration (5, Insightful)

ewg (158266) | about 9 years ago | (#13802768)

The next invasion of privacy will be requiring every automobile to be registered with the government. Armed law enforcement agents will compel any vehicle not displaying its government id to stop.

Oh, wait a minute...

Concept and reality are miles apart (2, Informative)

Ian.Waring (591380) | about 9 years ago | (#13803026)

Maybe it's different in the USA, but here cells are just too big to meaningfully equate cell transitions into traffic movements on physical roads.

Motorola did a lot of work with UK company Trafficmaster on their Smartnav [smartnav.com] product, where most of the traffic data comes in realtime from roadside cameras and sensors on Motorway bridges covering 9,000 miles of UK roads. When you push the button on the unit, the mobile phone rings into a call centre with the current GPS position encoded in the Caller ID of the phone call (3 bytes), you tell them the destination, and they send the turn-by-turn instructions back into the unit. If a jam shows up on your route before you get to your destination, the central servers ring the units and offer (with an estimate of the delay if you do nothing), then download, a route around the jam (if indeed one is available). Works really well.

Getting a GPS signal communicated back and forth in real time is the only way this hack will work - at least until the cell sizes get to 3G pico sizes.

There have been experiments with floating vehicle sensors, but most companies that say they use these for real time data collection do so as a PR stunt - the number of vehicles that need to be equipped and the economics of getting the data back in real time don't make business sense today, from either an accuracy or cost standpoint. Most instead download history at the end of the day, and just pick up details of roadworks and accidents from "journalistic" sources - whether there's a jam present or not.

Until we get GPS in most handsets (and if operators allow the caller IDs to be sent through with GPS data on board, but the call terminated at either end without any money changing hands), the use of mobile phones for spotting jams, or indeed navigating around them, will be very limited.

Ian W.

Finally... (1)

non0score (890022) | about 9 years ago | (#13803041)

...does Mapquest not have to hire two guys to drive around and map out the entire North American road system (just track all the cellphones and map out the roads from there...but beware of underground parking lots and off-road adventures)...okay, maybe they still need the two guys for the boonies.

GPS/phone renewal (1)

prisoner (133137) | about 9 years ago | (#13803042)

A customer of ours has an older cell phone. He likes it and deosn't see the need to upgrade. He's firmly in the "a phone is a phone" crowd. His contract came up for renewal this month and the sales rep told him that there were new Homeland security rules in place and, since his phone didn't have GPS, they could not renew his contract. Has anyone else heard of this? It sounds like bunk but....

This is nothing new (1)

CharliePete (923290) | about 9 years ago | (#13803098)

The simple fact is we gave up any right we had to privacy in this area when we caved in to the E911 movement. Big Brother already can, will, and does track our movements through our cell phones. I see no reason not to use the info that can already be used to an individual's detriment for the common good. The only real concern here is that this information will be more publicly available. Special care should be taken to insure that only enough information is collected to meet their advertised purpose.

Big Volunteers (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | about 9 years ago | (#13803588)

Making this system "opt-in", rather than universal (and usually undisclosed, especially to the unsophisticated mass of users), would go a long way to reassuring us that Big Brother's agenda isn't driving it. And publishing the source to the software that runs the dataprocessing will make sure that Big Brother isn't hiding in the details. Then an anonymous system that people join because they want to subscribe, so they publish, can be trusted - and popular.

Yeah they said the same thing about seat belts (1)

scotty1024 (584849) | about 9 years ago | (#13803681)

When they passed the seat belt law in Washington State they said they'd never use it to pull people over, it was a "secondary infraction only."

Now of course they routinely pull people over for not appearing to have their seat belts on. Which then leads to things such as "I've pulled you over because you didn't have your seat belt on" "But I do have my seat belt on!" "Sir, you clearly don't have it on right now" "But I took it off when you pulled me over." "Sir, did you realize you don't have the legally required trash bag in the driver compartment?"...

So of course I believe them when they say they won't escalate the usage of this cell phone tracking data, 'cause I'm a Mo-Ron!

Flip Side - Detecting Coverage Gaps (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13803746)

Perhaps this data could also be used to hold the mobile companies accountable for gaps in their network coverage along monitored roads.

And of course the signalling can go the other way. Yesterday I was the first car at the scene of a horrible road accident. There was no cell phone coverage, so we sent a car back up the road to get a 911 call through. But the responding deputy was actually alerted by the backup on the road itself that something was wrong.

Make a little tinfoil hat for your phone! (2, Insightful)

slappyjack (196918) | about 9 years ago | (#13803867)

The fact of the matter is, THEY can track you by your phone if THEY want to. THEY have been able to track you a bunch of other ways before this, if THEY wanted to. Maybe not your exact location right now, but close enough to go get you if THEY wanted to.

Then again, is it worth all the time worrying about THEM tracking you when most of the time THEY dont give a good goddamn if you're even alive, much less where you are at any given point in time, so long as you don't do anything horribly wrong.

I really can't see why people worry about this so much
<ramblin>
Things THEY could do to use the cell phone system more:
THEY could even use it to tell the highway partol where to put the speed traps now and start giving out a grip of speeding tickets. This would give an economic boost via court fees and fines, not to mention generating income for traffic court lawyers, whoc would then kick that back into the economy in the form of buying luxury items. Then we get a surplus of money in the government coffers, and they kick it back to the population of their respective states as a rebate every year, redistributing wealth from the people who can't seem to follow traffic laws to everyone else. (What? Have to speed to get where you're going? Sorry. Allow yourself more time to get where you;re goinig. Live closer to where you work. Your choice.)

Get stopped for doing something wrong and give the cops some fake id... lets check that against your cell phone, just for fun. "Sir, not to racially profile, but your cell phone says youre Eunice Witherspoon. You sure don't LOOK like a Eunice Witherspoon, being a man and all."

Or, like it has beeen said a million times already - you don't HAVE to have a cell phone. Carry a bunch of quarters and some disenfectant on you and use payphone!
</ramblin>

(hey, new submission posting form!)

Yeah (1)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | about 9 years ago | (#13804014)

"Officials say there's no Big Brother agenda in the Missouri project -- the data will remain anonymous, leaving no possibility to track specific people from their driveway to their destination."

I remember that officials said the same of EZ Pass-like systems, then divorce lawyers found that they could successfully subpoena the information they want.

Re:Yeah (1)

/dev/trash (182850) | about 9 years ago | (#13804384)

technically, that's not spying.

1984... (1)

arabagast (462679) | about 9 years ago | (#13804467)

...is here-

If they say they will keep it anonymous, there is still the fact that they got the data, and then there is not a long way to imagine them using it for some sort of "anti-terrorist" action or something of the sort. IMHO this is a very scary thing if it get implemented, since the gov. gets access to data they can use with less than a good reason in their "fight against terror".

In related news (1)

melted (227442) | about 9 years ago | (#13804484)

Australiand and Indian governments suggest surgically removing the eyes of Australian and Indian citizens. "Those are high resolution, stereoscopic imaging devices coupled with virtually infinite amount of memory. They sure can be used to scope out future targets, therefore in the interest of national security these tools of terror must be removed at birth, and retroactively for all citizens who have not yet undergone the procedure", an Australian official was quoted as saying. Complete removal of cerebral cortex is in the plans, according to a source in Indian government who shared information on the condition of anynymity.

Tower Load Tracking (1)

kd5ujz (640580) | about 9 years ago | (#13804763)

Are they tracking individual phones? Or just checking the control channel load on towers along the routes?
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