×

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

Thank you!

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

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

Feds Have Access To Cellphone Tracking On Request

Zonk posted more than 6 years ago | from the always-fun-to-carry-your-phone dept.

Privacy 140

Mike writes "According to a Washington Post article, federal officials are routinely asking and getting courts to order cellphone companies to furnish real-time tracking data on subscribers. The data is used to pinpoint the whereabouts of 'criminal suspects', according to judges and industry lawyers. In some cases, judges have granted the requests without even requiring the government to demonstrate probable cause that a crime is taking place or that the inquiry will yield evidence of a crime 'Privacy advocates fear such a practice may expose average Americans to a new level of government scrutiny of their daily lives. Such requests run counter to the Justice Department's internal recommendation that federal prosecutors seek warrants based on probable cause to obtain precise location data in private areas. The requests and orders are sealed at the government's request, so it is difficult to know how often the orders are issued or denied.'"

cancel ×
This is a preview of your comment

No Comment Title Entered

Anonymous Coward 1 minute ago

No Comment Entered

140 comments

This just in (5, Funny)

pwnies (1034518) | more than 6 years ago | (#21456371)

...and in unrelated news, Reynolds America Inc. ( http://finance.yahoo.com/q?s=RAI [yahoo.com] ) reported a rise in their stock price following record sales in their aluminium and tin foil divisions.

Re:This just in (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21456637)

Hint to mods: it's not a troll, it's a tinfoil hat joke.

Re:This just in (5, Insightful)

garbletext (669861) | more than 6 years ago | (#21456719)

Tinfoil hats are for conspiracy theorists. When your fears of an abusive government prove to be true, you're a liberal.

Re:This just in (4, Insightful)

anagama (611277) | more than 6 years ago | (#21457541)

When your fears of an abusive government prove to be true, you're a liberal.

Or a conservative constitutional scholar.
http://www.americanfreedomagenda.org/ [americanfr...agenda.org]

Re:This just in (1)

garbletext (669861) | more than 6 years ago | (#21458667)

I support their ideas, but

conservative
I'm not a fan of killing puppies. Why spawn an organization to reconstruct the right, when it's clearly too far gone. Desire for change is a leftist attribute. Substantially changing American conservatism isn't conservative.

Re:This just in (1)

anagama (611277) | more than 6 years ago | (#21459423)

The issue seems to be that current "American Conservatism" is neither. True conservatives and true liberals have cause for concern with both the neo-con and neo-liberal positions as neither advocates personal liberty or responsibility.

Re:This just in (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21460561)

+10 Insightful

Re:This just in (0, Troll)

MarsDefenseMinister (738128) | more than 6 years ago | (#21459459)

>Desire for change is a leftist attribute.

I knew it. The dirty begging hippies at the traffic lights that glare at me in my car are leftists.

Re:This just in (1)

sumdumass (711423) | more than 6 years ago | (#21459681)

Here is a question about those beggars, how many of them are conservative? And why do you think that might be?

There is no right or wrong answer. I'm curious to what people really think when presented with an opinion like this.

Re:This just in (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21458357)

It's strange how those who very conservative are clamoring to protect their assault gun rights, to protect them from an abusive government.

Re:This just in (4, Interesting)

neomunk (913773) | more than 6 years ago | (#21458973)

That's cute.

The biggest problem with your attempt at humor is the fact that people used to talk about tinfoil hats when people SUGGESTED something like this could happen, now people are delegated to the tinfoil hat crowd for COMPLAINING about this stuff happening.

When will it get to the point where the people who AREN'T paranoid about being constantly watched are mocked as the fools? Or is this subtle transition between 'you're crazy, that'll never happen' and 'what are you worried about, you're not a terrorist are you?' all the recognition the tinfoil hat people get for being right all along?

Re:This just in (1)

sumdumass (711423) | more than 6 years ago | (#21459671)

I don't think he was delegating them to the tinfoil hat crowd, he was just remarking at how many people are attempting to "foil" the feds.

so they can protect you (0, Troll)

User 956 (568564) | more than 6 years ago | (#21456383)

The data is used to pinpoint the whereabouts of 'criminal suspects', according to judges and industry lawyers. In some cases, judges have granted the requests without even requiring the government to demonstrate probable cause that a crime is taking place or that the inquiry will yield evidence of a crime

And if we put everyone in jail, then there would be no criminals on the street. Problem solved!

Inevitable (3, Interesting)

TheMeuge (645043) | more than 6 years ago | (#21456495)

I think we have to realize that a surveillance society is an inevitable consequence of surveillance capability. If anything, history should show us that when groups of people are granted powers over other groups, they tend to abuse them (see the "Stanford Prison Experiment" for psychological evidence). Thus, any monitoring, surveillance, or other oppressive capabilities, are likely to be realized. As technology removes the barriers to total surveillance, in terms of both the monitoring itself, as well as information processing, I do not see any option rather than for a total surveillance society to emerge.

Call me paranoid, but I still think that the above is a rational assessment given historical evidence.

Re:Inevitable (1)

foobsr (693224) | more than 6 years ago | (#21456693)

I think we have to realize that a surveillance society is an inevitable consequence of surveillance capability.

Given the emphasis that is put on technical development, yes.

If humanities had the same weight as science, perhaps no.

CC.

Re:Inevitable (2, Interesting)

User 956 (568564) | more than 6 years ago | (#21456809)

If humanities had the same weight as science, perhaps no.

Humanities doesn't have the same weight as science because they haven't found a way to kill people with it yet. Yet. [youtube.com]

Re:Inevitable (1)

TheVelvetFlamebait (986083) | more than 6 years ago | (#21457037)

I think we have to realize that a surveillance society is an inevitable consequence of surveillance capability.
Yes, it is unfortunate (probably not inevitable though). What doesn't help is that for every person saying "New surveillance tech will bring down our society", there are two more saying "New surveillance tech? Why haven't we implemented it yet?"

Re:Inevitable (1)

N3Roaster (888781) | more than 6 years ago | (#21457649)

The alternative is a panoptic society where everybody has equal access to the surveillance infrastructure. Well, either that or going off to live in a cave. I'm not a huge fan of any of these options.

Re:so they can protect you (2, Insightful)

nametaken (610866) | more than 6 years ago | (#21456571)

I'm normally the first to whine, but I was pleasantly surprised to see that Judges are required. Isn't that how we want surveillance to work?

Re:so they can protect you (1)

ReeceTarbert (893612) | more than 6 years ago | (#21456793)

Yes, but the summary says:

judges have granted the requests without even requiring the government to demonstrate probable cause that a crime is taking place or that the inquiry will yield evidence of a crime
Of course is for our own protection but, as discussed in the Skype thread, once you have the technology in place and when you start granting too much power without any real oversight, who's to prevent them to abuse both technology and power?


RT
--
Your Bookmarks. Anywhere. Anytime. [simplybookmarks.com]

Judges should demand a modicum of evidence (3, Insightful)

davidwr (791652) | more than 6 years ago | (#21458377)

A rubber-stamp judge slows things down for no useful purpose. You might as well just let the FBI write their own warrants.

A real judge that does his job will slow things down to make sure only people who really should be under surveillance are put under surveillance.

Wow (0, Troll)

2bitcomputers (864663) | more than 6 years ago | (#21456423)

You guys are so fucked. No oversight, no probable cause. Land of the free eh? Good luck with that.

Re:Wow (1)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 6 years ago | (#21456511)

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.
But your physical location, your comings and goings, that's not a "person" or a "thing" to be "seized", so no worries, right? And the fact that the government asked for this information, and whether it was granted or denied, well, you don't really need to know that, do you?

Re:Wow (2, Insightful)

m2943 (1140797) | more than 6 years ago | (#21456825)

And you seriously think this is different anywhere else? Western European nations, for example, were routinely tapping phone conversations of their own citizens behind the iron curtain, without probable cause or any other justification and nobody even raised much of an eyebrow about it. In the US, people at least make a fuss about it.

Re:Wow (2, Funny)

sumdumass (711423) | more than 6 years ago | (#21459703)

Hey now, don't raise a voice of reason just yet. It is too early in the thread. If you point something insightful like this out, you might deny someone the chance for a mindless rant and bashing session. They might explode!

Do you want to be know as the guy who made someone explode? Somebody do humanity a favor and mod this down for another ten minute or so.

If you didn't get the tongue in cheek there, Good point.

Re:Wow (-1, Troll)

ReTay (164994) | more than 6 years ago | (#21457003)

You guys are so fucked. No oversight, no probable cause. Land of the free eh? Good luck with that.

Parent WAS NOT a Troll.
Jesus H Christ on a stick, It is sadly a fact. Honestly if we can't admit there is a problem we can't fix it. We need electric feed back to mods.

Re:Wow (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21457995)

Wow, you were both right & graciously provided an example of a real troll post.

Thanks!

This is so unexpected. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21456427)

How unlike the government to track us in ways we have not thought of.

The truth comes out. (0)

Caspian (99221) | more than 6 years ago | (#21456429)

Finally, the REAL reason why just about every phone nowadays comes with a built-in GPS receiver...... so the phone can tell the carrier-- and thus the government-- where it is.......

Re:The truth comes out. (1)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 6 years ago | (#21456525)

Finally, the REAL reason why just about every phone nowadays comes with a built-in GPS receiver...... so the phone can tell the carrier-- and thus the government-- where it is.......

This doesn't require GPS to the best of my (limited) knowledge.

The cell phone needs to be in contact with a tower in order to have a signal. For billing purposes, they need to know who you are.

I think this works far more through radio triangulation than GPS. GPS, however, probably makes it easier. Of course, it makes one wonder if you suddenly noticed your battery life falling off would it tip you off that the cell tower is pinging you?

(Anyone who knows this better or wants to correct any blatant errors feel free to chime in.)

Cheers

Re:The truth comes out. (2, Informative)

bn0p (656911) | more than 6 years ago | (#21456713)

You are correct. GPS only makes it easier and more accurate to locate a phone. The location services provided by phones and carriers are *intended* for consumer applications (e.g., all those GPS applications your wireless company is willing to sell you) and emergency/911 calls.

At least for the commercial applications, the software is designed to require a response from the phone saying in effect "Yes, you can determine my location at this time". The software will then use the GPS in the phone (if it is installed and turned on) or triangulation using the cell towers nearest the phone to determine your location.

The software is not in and of itself bad - recently it was used to locate a mother and child attending a concert to let them know that a transplant donor had been located for the child and to get to the hospital. The issue is more that courts are approving the government's requests without requiring the government to demonstrate probable cause that a crime is taking place. This increases the potential for abusing the process.


Never let reality temper imagination

Re:The truth comes out. (0)

hazem (472289) | more than 6 years ago | (#21457229)

recently it was used to locate a mother and child attending a concert to let them know that a transplant donor had been located for the child and to get to the hospital.

Damn them! How dare they have a phone turned on during a concert! By god and all that is right those signals should have been jammed! I don't care if she has a terminal illness... nobody should be able to interrupt my enjoyment of the Teletubbies Christmas Jam! /sarcasm

Re:The truth comes out. (1)

vux984 (928602) | more than 6 years ago | (#21457359)

Damn them! How dare they have a phone turned on during a concert! By god and all that is right those signals should have been jammed! I don't care if she has a terminal illness... nobody should be able to interrupt my enjoyment of the Teletubbies Christmas Jam! /sarcasm

Uh... you realize nearly all phones have both a silent and a vibrate mode.

Moreover, that the ability to locate them like this would be *needed* at all suggests that the phone was at least either silent or off. (Otherwise, they would have just CALLED them repeatedly to let them know.)

But since the phone was either silent or off, they looked up its position. (either its current reported postion if "silent" or last reported position if "off") and sent someone over to physically find/get them.

Re:The truth comes out. (1)

plover (150551) | more than 6 years ago | (#21459389)

**** whoosh **** [slashdot.org]

That was the reference flying right over your head, just above hairline level.

A few weeks ago, /. had a front-page story called Cell Phone Jamming on the Rise [slashdot.org], talking about how establishments are jamming cell phone frequencies so their customers can have an evening in peace without some idiot yapping away on his cell phone. The sarcasm above was a parody of many of the comments.

Re:The truth comes out. (2, Insightful)

arivanov (12034) | more than 6 years ago | (#21457347)

It does not on GSM (dunno about American specific tech).

GSM needs to keep track of phone locations very precisely because the primary means of synchronising the phone to the network is by altering the timing advance which tells the phone when to start transmitting.

3G is nowhere near to GSM in terms of location precision. In uses reflected signals in a positive feedback filter to improve the phone signal to noise ratio. If you look at the data before the filter you cannot make sense of it (it is combined with the rest of signal processing). If you look at the data after the filter you no longer have a true measurement of the signal produced by the phone. You have a measurement of a function of that signal combined with all reflections. As a result you no longer have the same precision on the measurement of time between the phone and the radio access network as in GSM. From there on you can no longer determine the phone locations as precisely.

So I would not be surprised that the drive to bundle GPS in newer phones has something to do with it. For the older ones (especially GSM) it was totally unnecessary. You could get their location down to a meter in some places.

Re:The truth comes out. (1)

smithmc (451373) | more than 6 years ago | (#21456773)


  Finally, the REAL reason why just about every phone nowadays comes with a built-in GPS receiver...... so the phone can tell the carrier-- and thus the government-- where it is.......

My phone has an option to turn off GPS unless I dial 911. Are you saying that this feature doesn't really work? Or that the phone company can override it?

Re:The truth comes out. (1)

vux984 (928602) | more than 6 years ago | (#21457301)

My phone has an option to turn off GPS unless I dial 911. Are you saying that this feature doesn't really work? Or that the phone company can override it?

The feature to turn of GPS is likely working. Its reasonably improbable that they'd be able to remotely stealth turn it on.

However, cellphones talk to multiple towers simultaneously. Carriers can a locate a phone relatively accurately even without GPS. Additionally cellphones regularly communicate with the towers to let the network know where it is, so that the network knows where to route an incoming call or sms. So you can assume the carrier gets regular positional updates from the phone provided its on, even if gps is off.

Re:The truth comes out. (1)

Damarkus13 (1000963) | more than 6 years ago | (#21458243)

Reasonably improbable? I think not. Most (all newer?) phones can even have just their microphone turned on remotely. I think it is actually "Highly Probable" that GPS features have the same override.

Re:The truth comes out. (1)

Aetuneo (1130295) | more than 6 years ago | (#21459825)

Could the same logic be applied to why high-end phones (the iPhone is the only one that comes to mind) don't have user-removable batteries? After all, if you can't cut the power to the phone, the only way to stop being tracked is to throw it away.

Re:The truth comes out. (1)

hajus (990255) | more than 6 years ago | (#21460499)

I used to work for a company that provided location calculation software to cell companies. Only some companies use GPS for GPS sometimes has a problem in buildings. Some use "Time Difference of Arrival" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multilateration [wikipedia.org] which means that your location is calculated by the difference in time that your cell signal takes to hit different cell towers (4 are needed, depending on geometry). Hyperboloids are generated, and their intersection is your position.

When I worked in this field, it was (as far as I knew) only used to find your location when you called 911.

Can we just have a revolution and get it over with (2, Interesting)

MadHatter2005 (886375) | more than 6 years ago | (#21456461)

Every day it's either some government agency or some giant corp that is tightening the screws on US citizens. When will there be a tipping point where Joe Apathetic says "enough!" and takes to the streets? It's alarming that so many people are so docile.

Re:Can we just have a revolution and get it over w (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21456509)

It's alarming that so many people are so docile.
What did you do about it today?

Re:Can we just have a revolution and get it over w (1, Funny)

garbletext (669861) | more than 6 years ago | (#21456759)

duh, he posted about it on slashdot. and maybe his blog.

Re:Can we just have a revolution and get it over w (1)

sumdumass (711423) | more than 6 years ago | (#21459821)

Maybe we should get a big hippy jam circle together. That will show them.

Re:Can we just have a revolution and get it over w (1)

lionheart1327 (841404) | more than 6 years ago | (#21456523)

What exactly makes you think that a revolution will help in any way?

Meet your new boss, same as old boss. But with bigger guns.

Re:Can we just have a revolution and get it over w (1)

ewhenn (647989) | more than 6 years ago | (#21456531)

Not happening. Joe Apathetic is more worried about his dumb ass ring tones.

Re:Can we just have a revolution and get it over w (1)

sumdumass (711423) | more than 6 years ago | (#21459855)

Maybe Joe Apathetic has a better grasp on the situation and isn't alarmed at everything. Maybe he is one of the old school naive people who still think the government for the most part is good and that cops protect you from bad guys. Maybe every day, this idea is reinforces with him because he sees cops dealing with bad guys on the TV, hears how the government is going to protect him from something he otherwise wouldn't be able to, and he has a decent job making decent money with a halfway decent family. You know, he could just be content and liking life. Maybe Ring tones is the biggest upset in his life.

You know, how good would you feel if ring tones was the biggest upset in your day to day life.

Re:Can we just have a revolution and get it over w (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21456533)

This will occur when you try to pry the cheeseburger from his cold dead fingers... or would, if he wasn't already dead at that point. But not before.

Re:Can we just have a revolution and get it over w (1)

denis-The-menace (471988) | more than 6 years ago | (#21456653)

Probably when they get too impatient to grab ALL the power that's left in one shot like Musharraf did in Pakistan.

The Corps and the rich folks behind them are trying to sneak control and $ away from the people gradually so that Joe Apathetic doesn't see anything wrong until it's too late. When they'll be done, the US will look like the Alphaverse in Charlie_Jade. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charlie_Jade)

I doubt it will happen because Greedy people can only hold back for so long...

Re:Can we just have a revolution and get it over w (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21458559)

The Corps and the rich folks behind them are trying to sneak control and $ away from the people gradually so that Joe Apathetic doesn't see anything wrong until it's too late. When they'll be done, the US will look like the Alphaverse in Charlie_Jade. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charlie_Jade)

Actually, controlling you is way more trouble than it's worth. We don't want control over you, we just want your money.

There was a time when we rich people could make money by controlling poor peoples' lives, but that was a long time ago, back when your labor and your loyalty was actually worth something in the world. We'll cheerfully leave the job of "controlling" you to your priests.

(posted A.C. due to breaking the first and second rules of Bilderberg Club)

Re:Can we just have a revolution and get it over w (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21456903)

government agency or some giant corp

Why the redundancy in that expression?

Re:Can we just have an election and get it over wi (2, Insightful)

TheVelvetFlamebait (986083) | more than 6 years ago | (#21456999)

When will there be a tipping point where Joe Apathetic says "enough!" and takes to the streets?
It'll probably be when the most important parts of running a country are seriously neglected, when people are no longer comfortable and happy. When people feel that the mountainous benefits of living in the US aren't enough. Then they'll take to the streets, and by god, there will be an election like none other for hundreds of years.

Re:Can we just have a revolution and get it over w (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21457327)

You fucks are too fat to move.

Re:Can we just have a revolution and get it over w (1)

garcia (6573) | more than 6 years ago | (#21457411)

Every day it's either some government agency or some giant corp that is tightening the screws on US citizens. When will there be a tipping point where Joe Apathetic says "enough!" and takes to the streets? It's alarming that so many people are so docile.

When the actions of the government affect the TV viewing and high fructose corn syrup eating of the American public. Until then? Everyone will continue to sit on their asses smiling that they did "great work" at their pointless jobs and consider themselves successful.

Re:Can we just have a revolution and get it over w (1)

Reality Master 101 (179095) | more than 6 years ago | (#21457973)

Every day it's either some government agency or some giant corp that is tightening the screws on US citizens. When will there be a tipping point where Joe Apathetic says "enough!" and takes to the streets?

I'll tell you the answer, but you won't like it.

The reason people are apathetic about these things is because it doesn't affect normal citizens to any great extent. There will ALWAYS be government abuses -- that's just the nature of power. The question is whether there are widespread enough abuses to make people notice (i.e., it happens to someone they know), and there just aren't.

When government power really does get out of hand, then it'll be reigned in (see: the 1950s communist witch hunts). People don't care because there's nothing to care about yet.

Another Reason (4, Insightful)

ewhenn (647989) | more than 6 years ago | (#21456477)

Another reason I prefer not to own a cell phone. Modern ones all have at least rudimentary location tracking built in. With the way the US Govt. abuses powers it shouldn't have, it doesn't take a genius to figure out that they will try to exploit it so they can track people "in need of public safety"... because we all know how the average American (and yes, I'm an American citizen, so I'm bashing my own country, not yours) will roll over and play dead anytime the Govt. pulls out the safety card. It's pathetic.

Re:Another Reason (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21456715)

I stuffed my big fat American mouth last night with big fat American turkey and big fat American potatoes with a couple of big ladles of fatty American gravy. And then pounded a couple of big fat American mouthfuls of sweet potato pie down there for good measure.

this morning I took a big fat American shit the size of a big fat American toddler

I'm getting ready to go out in a couple of hours to have a big fat American steak and some big goblets of American beer

Q: what does cellphone tracking matter to me?
A: not one big fat American thing.

life is good. I have nothing to hide, and I, for one, am glad to see our law enforcement doing everything they can to keep our American lifestyle safe and secure from terrorism. Don't like it? leave.

Re:Another Reason (3, Insightful)

Frosty Piss (770223) | more than 6 years ago | (#21456729)

Another reason I prefer not to own a cell phone. Modern ones all have at least rudimentary location tracking built in.
On my phone (a Motorola Razr V3 serviced by Verizon), tracking can be turned on or off. For me, I leave it on so that when I'm out and about on country roads and Forest Service roads, which I am a lot, they can find me when I call 911.

But I wonder, can "they" track me even when I turn the "feature" off? Maybe "they" see through the little camera on the phone? Can "they" hear waht I'm saying even when the phone is "closed"?

Anyway, I'm off to the store to buy more aluminum foil (with cash in coin form, of course)...

Re:Another Reason (1)

ewhenn (647989) | more than 6 years ago | (#21456867)

Even if you have it off, 911 has permission to override it to get your location. With systems in place that allow them to bypass your lock, it wouldn't be a shock at all if "law enforcement" (I use that term loosely) and the Govt. will try to use this bypass feature to their advantage, even if it tramples on your rights or is of questionable legal status.

Even on older phones without GPS features, they still have an idea where you are by which cell tower your phone is connected to. sure, its not as accureate, but it will give them an X mile radius of your whereabouts on demand. Not something I'm interested in.

Re:Another Reason (1)

Frosty Piss (770223) | more than 6 years ago | (#21457105)

Even if you have it off, 911 has permission to override it to get your location.
The "feature" is spacifically tied to 911, in other workds the manual spacifically says if you want 911 tracking you *must* turn it on. Are you saying that when I turn it off, Verizon is out and out LIEING to me?

Sometimes paranoia == talking out of one's ass.

Re:Another Reason (3, Interesting)

ewhenn (647989) | more than 6 years ago | (#21457213)

Yes, they can ignore your preferances. I'm not saying they do it to everyone just to mess with them, but the technology allows for it.

http://blogs.abcnews.com/theblotter/2006/12/can_you_hear_me.html [abcnews.com]

......Any recently manufactured cell phone has a built-in tracking device, which can allow eavesdroppers to pinpoint someone's location to within just a few feet..... The court ruling denied motions by 10 defendants to suppress the conversations obtained by "roving bugs" on the phones of John Ardito....Experts say the only way to defeat it is to remove the cell phone battery.....

Re:Another Reason (1)

freedom_india (780002) | more than 6 years ago | (#21458197)

Verizon is lying to you and they get an immunity from prosecution for it,

Grow up kid. This is not your 1960s USA.
This is 2007. What the companies and government say is false.

Re:Another Reason (4, Interesting)

rueger (210566) | more than 6 years ago | (#21456925)

But I wonder, can "they" track me even when I turn the "feature" off? Maybe "they" see through the little camera on the phone? Can "they" hear waht I'm saying even when the phone is "closed"?

Yes. From 2006. [abcnews.com]

Cell phone users, beware. The FBI can listen to everything you say, even when the cell phone is turned off. A recent court ruling in a case against the Genovese crime family revealed that the FBI has the ability from a remote location to activate a cell phone and turn its microphone into a listening device that transmits to an FBI listening post, a method known as a "roving bug." Experts say the only way to defeat it is to remove the cell phone battery. "The FBI can access cell phones and modify them remotely without ever having to physically handle them," James Atkinson, a counterintelligence security consultant, told ABC News. "Any recently manufactured cell phone has a built-in tracking device, which can allow eavesdroppers to pinpoint someone's location to within just a few feet," he added.

Re:Another Reason (0)

jc42 (318812) | more than 6 years ago | (#21457379)

Cell phone users, beware. The FBI can listen to everything you say, even when the cell phone is turned off.

Actually, it's hardly a secret that this has pretty much always been true, even for the old rotary "black phone" from the 1940s and 50s. Unlike modern phones, those didn't have any internal power source, and couldn't be plugged into wall power. They were powered by the 50 volts that the phone company provided on the phone line. And (except for a few rare models) it was openly admitted that they were "always on", usable as a microphone by anyone with the political clout or bribe money to get someone inside the phone company to set up the connection.

Of course, back in the analog days, doing this required having several humans handy to do it and manage the recording equipment, so listening in on more than a few citizens was beyond the logistical capability of any government. These digital days, the main difference is that it's a whole lot easier to automate.

Voice processing is still sufficiently intractable and expensive to limit the monitoring to a somewhat larger but still small percent of the population. Thus, as a prominent example, the US government has admitted to having recordings from a lot of calls by the perps in the 9/11 WTC attack, but didn't have the personnel (who could understand Arabic) to analyze the recordings. But we can look forward to this becoming cheaper and more practical as time and technology progresses.

How long until they can actually record and analyze everything within range of all our phones?

Here's an idea: Can we extend this to all government employees, too? And put the transcriptions online? It would be the ultimate democratic tool for feedback from the government to the citizens.

Re:Another Reason (1)

rueger (210566) | more than 6 years ago | (#21457759)

Here's an idea: Can we extend this to all government employees, too? And put the transcriptions online? It would be the ultimate democratic tool for feedback from the government to the citizens.

Ooooh! Try this: since all calls "may be monitored for quality," how about a random process that connects random government employee's phones to a 900 number that anyone can call? $1.99 a minute, and maybe you get to listen in on an IRS auditor, or a petty drone, or maybe, just maybe, your own Senator or Congressperson!

Imagine tens of thousands people each day calling in and listening in on tens of thousands of people in government without warning.

Re:Another Reason (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21459145)

How long until they can actually record and analyze everything within range of all our phones?
Total Information Awareness is dead, long live the Information Awareness Office.

ECHELON is dead, long live AUSCANZUKUS.

Re:Another Reason (1)

compro01 (777531) | more than 6 years ago | (#21459737)

How long until they can actually record and analyze everything within range of all our phones?

not too long i'd imagine.

16-bit, 44.1khz (CD quality) mono sound is ~11KB/s

with ~300 million Americans, presuming all of them use the phone for 3 hours a day:

300,000,000*11*3600*3=33,000 terabytes per day

a 1TB drive costs $402 currently, and assuming three copies of every call (for redundancy purposes) that's about $40 million per day or $14.6 billion per year, which isn't a whole lot given government spending.

of course, analysing all that would take considerable resources, but they could feasibly record every word said by everyone on every phone RIGHT NOW if they put their minds to it.

Re:Another Reason (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21459517)

The problem with all those stories is that they never provide any technical details. Sometimes it is even claimed that all cellphones can be remote manipulated, which is absurd. Most cellphones don't even allow downloading software, or it would have to be a super secret backdoor installed at the federal agencies' request years ago by all manufacturers, most of which are not US but East Asian.

I'm not trying to minimize the danger, I'd just like to hear something more substantial.

As to TFA, I have no doubt that they track people's location through their cellphones, with or without warrant. (I even think that cell triangulation is generally much more precise than the stated "3 miles".) Still, why should I trust any information from a source that pretends that E911 tracking systems read signals sent to satellites from a phone's Global Positioning System (GPS) chip? What else did that obviously clueless reporter get wrong?

Re:Another Reason (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21459573)

yes, the nippers would never do us wrong

good call there, sherlock

Re:Another Reason (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21460383)

Does anyone know if there exists a small device for sale that alerts on communications to/from a device? I guess it would have to handle all the supported carrier frequencies, plus GSM/GRPS/EDGE/3G, and be able to flag traffic based on phone number/IMEI above the level of traffic associated with maintaining connectivity.

It seems like unfortunately the constitution truly is a worthless scrap of paper in the eyes of the US Government and related agencies these days, and such things may become necessary.

Re:Another Reason (1)

Threni (635302) | more than 6 years ago | (#21457399)

If only there was a cheap way of getting some sort of `pay as you go` phone, and only phoning your dodgy friends who also only use `pay as you go` phones...

Listen up (-1, Troll)

Carpe PM (754778) | more than 6 years ago | (#21456513)

You need not worry about this. Why?

NO ONE CARES ABOUT YOU.

YOU ARE NOT IMPORTANT.

You think the Feds are interested where your sorry ass goes, what you do? No!

This is mearly an expression of ego.

Re:Listen up (3, Insightful)

wordsnyc (956034) | more than 6 years ago | (#21456615)

There is an element of truth to this. The practical effect of this is to spread fear and apprehension among "innocent nobodies" who happen to be paying attention. The myth of government omniscience (and, by extension, omnipotence) is a powerful tool of preemptive social control.

It's like torture. Newsflash: the people who torture know it doesn't really "work" on (i.e., produce valuable information from) the victims. It's a form of state terrorism -- it works best on the rest of us.

Re:Listen up (1)

DeadChobi (740395) | more than 6 years ago | (#21460099)

But Big Brother is always looking out for us! He sees everything! He loves us so he watches over us always, awake or asleep. He even loves us enough to bring us back into the fold when we stray.

mo(d uP (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21456543)

80s, DARPA saw BSD users With Large

About time (3, Insightful)

VonSkippy (892467) | more than 6 years ago | (#21456665)

Good. It's about time they weed out the criminally stupid.

What moron doesn't know they can buy a throw away cell from Walmarts for cash?

If you're dumb enough to be a crook AND use a traceable (i.e. contracted) cell phone you deserve what you get.

Re:About time (1)

fat man with a monke (869132) | more than 6 years ago | (#21456847)

Except that now you have to provide personal information nowadays when you get a "disposable" phone. Older ones without the GPS are being phased out, and if i recall correctly, the providers no longer supported them after January of this year. Face it, there are no anonymous cell phones. That's what you get for using any wireless device. Eventually it has to communicate somewhere if you intend to use it, and from there it's a matter of triangulating signal even if it doesn't use GPS.

Re:About time (1)

anagama (611277) | more than 6 years ago | (#21457885)

My phone has no GPS [epinions.com]. Three or four years ago, Qwest wrote me saying they were "upgrading" their network and my phone wouldn't work anymore. They sent me a free replacement -- was worthless because I used my phone in a semi-remote area in which the internal antenna was not beefy enough. I looked around for a good phone with an external antenna port -- brick shape because I'm hard on phones -- but found nothing. I then went to the Qwest kiosk and asked them to make my phone work (it was supposed to be tri-band blah blah blah compatible everywhere or something like that). They fiddled with it for a while and voila, it worked.

Last year, the keyboard numbers 8 & 9 stopped working. I bought the same phone off ebay for $3 and swapped keyboards. Perhaps I should buy a couple more spares for when other parts go -- I spent $180 on the phone originally and now I could probably get 60 of them for that cost. The phone has great battery life, a workable speaker phone, and an external antenna port. No camera, no gimmicks, and no GPS. It's worth holding on to, if for no other reason than bragging rights on the oldest cell phone still in use among anyone I know (5.5 years).

Re:About time (1)

Snuhwolf (1105289) | more than 6 years ago | (#21457591)

Simply take the battery out of the cell phone and put it in when you need to make a call and take it out when you're done. The phone dosent ping the cell tower unless it has power.

Re:About time (1)

sponga (739683) | more than 6 years ago | (#21459123)

You obviously never watched the show on HBO 'The Wire'.

This method is known by police and the feds for a long time with the disposable phones; they even got smart and started buying them from another state to throw off the authorities.

The drug dealers in Baltimore know a lot more about privacy and keeping their conversations private than a lot of people around here sometimes.

Re:About time (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21460473)

If you make it a crime to be stupid, only the criminals will be stupid. ...or something like that...

and for how long have I been saying (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21456695)

that the requirement of a warrant from a judge is a worthless safeguard?
Judges are just officials, they just happen to wear stupid gowns and effeminate wigs.

somebody log in and repeat this (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21456697)

I *just* heard a news story about this a day or so ago- take it seriously!
A car was stolen by three guys, and the guys rammed a police car during the chase.
The police opened fire on the vehicle, killing the driver. They also wounded one of two other guys in the car who bailed and ran off into the night.

Here's the part that made me take notice: The news guy said that by using the cellphone number of the driver, they located and captured the other two guys within 20 minutes... by using location tracking of the fugitive's cellphones.

Considering that a) the driver was dead and b) they didn't know who the other two guys were when they bailed out of the car and took off, 20 minutes seemed awfully fast. But how can you track down a cell phone's location without knowing the number or who the owner is?

This means (obviously) that there must be an easily accessible database tracking both caller history (to find out who you called, or called you) AND those people's current locations. I knew things like this were in place for DHS and the FBI (a lot of bank robbers get caught because they have cell phones on them or in their cars), but that local LE had access to this stuff was a surprise.

That means that you and I, joe geek guy, are already in this thing.
Pretty cool, huh? It's *way* too late for tinfoil.

Re:somebody log in and repeat this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21457127)

This means (obviously) that there must be an easily accessible database tracking both caller history

No, it means (obviously) that the police will testify that they have such a database, but that nobody can see it.

In reality, they pulled two guys that looked at them funny off the streets and handed them cellphones and said "tag, you're it".

Re:somebody log in and repeat this (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21458779)

This means (obviously) that there must be an easily accessible database tracking caller history (to find out who you called, or called you)

That would be much scarier if the dead guy wasn't carrying the database in his pocket. As for locating two wounded guys on foot--can you say "redial"?

 

what I really wish... (3, Insightful)

spacefem (443435) | more than 6 years ago | (#21456869)

I feel like privacy issues are incredibly important... and that I'm the only one who feels this way. Well, me and my friends who read slashdot. And the four libertarians I know.

The government only does this stuff because they feel like they can get away with it, that's what kills me.

Re:what I really wish... (1)

grassy_knoll (412409) | more than 6 years ago | (#21457435)

The government only does this stuff because they feel like they can get away with it, that's what kills me.


Seems like they can.

What I want to know is... (1)

esocid (946821) | more than 6 years ago | (#21457859)

when do we get our required RFID tags? I still can't believe that some companies actually require their employees to be surgically implanted with these little tracking devices under the guise of security [wordpress.com]. Hopefully the precedent that California set will stand, unless of course the Supreme Court tries to take a look at it and decides that our privacy means nothing in terms of die Staatssicherheit (national security).

crime shows (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21457945)

Just curious, why does every US crime show say that they found the person via GPS tracking ? The last time I checked no phone had a GPS system inside (unless it had tomtom or garmin inside). Do they mean tracking via cell towers ?

Remove battery when not in use (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21458361)

People know they can leave me a message.

I'm a lot less uncomfortable knowing the feds can monitor me 3-4x a day when I check messages than 24x7.

Yes I'm an anonymous coward dammit. You would be too if the feds were trying to monitor your cell phone.

It may even be eaiser than you think (1)

WillRobinson (159226) | more than 6 years ago | (#21458709)

I could think of this possibility.

1. Cellphones can be tracked very accurately.
2. Government can tap the records at will.
3. Bank robbery happens at 4th and main.
4. Police notify FBI.
5. FBI calls the cell carriers and says "we need all active numbers in grid 34,53 at 12:03 pm when a robbery occurred" List please.
6. FBI asks for the above mentioned numbers, "Which moved away from grid 34,53 at 12:05 at where are they now" List Please.
7. FBI asks what was the duration of movement, and speed of numbers in list 2 please, and where are they RIGHT NOW.

criminal or not (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21459183)

why again can we not see our OWN triangulations?

On the other hand ... (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 6 years ago | (#21460251)

... a smart bank robber could leave his cell phone with a friend at the other end of town while holding up the bank. The FBI, tracking the device either in real time or by requesting log data, eliminate him as a suspect.

Come on folks. We've watched enough '24' and 'CSI' to know how tracking works. We know better then to carry our own cell phones while committing a crime.

Damn Stallman! (1)

skeeto (1138903) | more than 6 years ago | (#21460637)

Richard Stallman is famous for being very careful when he makes predictions. They always seem to turn out to be true. But, in one of his interviews, the interviewer's cell phone rang and RMS said "Will you please turn off your tracking device?". (sorry, couldn't find a link) He went on to talk about cell phones being used by the government to track people.

Now, when I saw this, I was thinking, "I doubt it. He has got to be wrong about this one. This is just tinfoil-hat stuff." But it turns out Stallman was right all along... again.

Load More Comments
Slashdot Account

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
Sign up for Slashdot Newsletters
Create a Slashdot Account

Loading...