Tracking Your Cell Phone: Illusion of Privacy; Cell-Site Location Information
“IN THE MATTER OF THE APPLICATION OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA FOR AN ORDER DIRECTING A PROVIDER OF ELECTRONIC COMMUNICATION SERVICE TO DISCLOSE RECORDS TO THE GOVERNMENT”
The government already has lost two lower-court bids for an application requiring the phone service providers to release usage records of a suspect in a narcotics probe. A federal magistrate and then a district judge in Pittsburgh ruled that the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment requires the government to seek a warrant based on probable cause to compel a carrier to disclose the records, according to court documents.
The gist of this case is that every cell phone provider aggregates and compiles massive data points with the passive and active signals from wireless devices (phones, blackberries, anything that operates via cell tower). At present, every location of the phone is logged and recorded. It is unsettling; there is no legal argument against wireless providers – we bound by privately contract. But should the government also have access to this data under the power to police and prevent terrorism?
The legal argument revolves around a person’s expectation of privacy (subjective and objective) and whether the government is conducting an unwarranted search as provided for in the Fourth Amendment.
I do not see it as a reasonable expectation of privacy. Our notions of privacy must be continually updated to match innovations in technology. Think how Facebook expanded social norms about acceptable content online. The strict standard of privacy is devolving as people reach out to connect with others.
People have to understand that the nature of the technology is such that it easily lends itself to tracking. Triangulation of signal is relatively simple. All that is need is three (2 if you are advanced) towers, to plot an active phone. Each cell phone has a different outgoing address, such as a computer, and can be tracked with a smattering of parts and some money. This is not highly complicated … within a few years people could track phones across cities.
But just saying that a lay person could track you is not a good reason – but its probative of the reasonable nature of privacy.
Ever think of the possibilities that would be available if an App was created that could plot my location in real time. I can let my friends and family get in contact with me or plan events; create route maps; engineer my life as I please. If I am looking for my friend I can see where he is and go find him with the “connect us” app. I think the applications for this technology will expand as innovators think of new and fun concepts. I can already think of many.
Instead of fighting this trend; lets embrace it. Let’s do something good with it and not let it destroy our sense of freedom. Simply because your location is known at all times, it does not mean you loose any freedom. There is nothing you can do today that was not possible yesterday.
Technological integration is an inevitability. If a person wants to have a modern cell phone, it will not be hard to track. Embrace it or fear it.
What is the fear?
First, a dose of realism. The United States government has created software that secretly tracks all bank transactions in the world since after 9/11 . SF Chronicle.
Question about sharing bank data emerged in 2006, after The New York Times reported that a Belgian cooperative responsible for routing about $6 trillion daily among banks, brokerage houses, stock exchanges and other institutions had provided information about transactions involving thousands of Americans and others in the United States in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.
Although the EU just nixed the program by vote, it operated in clandestine capacity for years.
Historically speaking, I am not fully convinced that the government does not have access to cell phone data (or internet traffic) already. Remember, high powered camera’s in orbit can read a newspaper. We live with an illusion of privacy.
The fear, I reason, would be that a tyrannical government could have absolute power over you by knowing your every location. A real world example of this are the events in Iran. Attending a protest with your cell phone meant they knew you were against the state. Protesters quickly learned to ditch the cell phones. Lets be real, if the Irans are doing it, I think our government can, or is, doing it. Nor do I think a court prohibition would stop them.
I am not afraid to use My Data that My Phone generates. If a person wishes to play in a world with advanced technology they must accept that privacy will be sacrificed.
We loose our freedom when access is distributed on hierarchical structure of varying access. We should strive to equalize the power by giving end users the ability to decide how they wish to live.
It’s not that I am anti-privacy. I see it as the information is already available should the “bad guys” want to use it, and should the “good guys” want to use it catch a criminal I am not instantaneously opposed. I want to push it into the light so it can be constructively used if a person feels so inclined.
I propose that a person have the option to make public his movements. I would like to integrate this technology in a bevy of applications that could make modern life better. AND if police are ever allowed to access this data, it should be obtained through a warrant. And that is sort of whats being proposed in the courts at the moment, except the part where people can do with it what they like.The current way makes a person feel that they under the thumb of others who can secretively obtain some strange data.
The Data is being recorded, there is no legal basis for stopping it. The power resides with the one who wields the information; I want that to be the person – give me the public option.