Jul 7, 2009

Your cell phone is spying on you

A couple criminal cases in New York City highlight law enforcement's use of increasingly sophisticated cell phone tracking technology to keep an eye on suspects. From the New York Times:

...cellphone tracking is raising concerns about civil liberties in a debate that pits public safety against privacy rights. Existing laws do not provide clear or uniform guidelines: Federal wiretap laws, outpaced by technological advances, do not explicitly cover the use of cellphone data to pinpoint a person’s location, and local court rulings vary widely across the country.

In one case that unsettled cellphone companies, a sheriff in Alabama told a carrier he needed to track a cellphone in an emergency involving a child — she turned out to be his teenage daughter, who was late returning from a date.

For more than a decade, investigators have been able to match an antenna tower with a cellphone signal to track a phone’s location to within a radius of about 200 yards in urban areas and up to 20 miles in rural areas. Now many more cellphones are equipped with global-positioning technology that makes it possible to pinpoint a user’s position with much greater precision, down to a few dozen yards.

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