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Cell Phones: Tracking Devices That Happen To Make Calls 196

An anonymous reader writes "An article in the NY Times argues that the devices we call 'cell phones' should instead be called 'trackers.' It would help remind the average user that whole industries have sprung up around the mining and selling of their personal data — not to mention the huge amount of data requested by governments. Law professor Eben Moglen goes a step further, saying our cell phones are effectively robots that use us for mobility. 'They see everything, they're aware of our position, our relationship to other human beings and other robots, they mediate an information stream around us.' It's interesting to see such a mainstream publication focus on privacy like this; the authors say that since an objects name influences how people think about the object, renaming 'cell phones' could be an simple way to raise privacy awareness."
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Cell Phones: Tracking Devices That Happen To Make Calls

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  • Nope (Score:4, Insightful)

    by FranTaylor ( 164577 ) on Saturday July 14, 2012 @07:05PM (#40651805)

    Honestly you really think they aren't putting tracking devices in disposable phones? Wake up and smell the espionage

  • Nope! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Greyfox ( 87712 ) on Saturday July 14, 2012 @07:08PM (#40651837) Homepage Journal
    The cellular network has to know where you are to route calls to you. Back when they first came out, someone published an article about using cellular information to locate a person with his cell phone to within 36 feet. There is a wealth of information that can be found out about you using your cell phone even if it's a 10 year old completely dumb phone (My parents are still using one of my hand-me-downs from the '90s!)

    Morale of this story is when you go off to murder that guy, leave your cell phone at home (Or stick it in the wife's glove box!) Bin Laden's courier would take the battery out of his until he was in the next town over.

  • Good metaphor (Score:0, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 14, 2012 @07:30PM (#40651947)

    Phones are like a symbiotic robotic lifeform.
    They need us to move around, to live, to feed off information in to the hivemind brain.
    We need them for their extra-sensory perception, for our turbo-charged "memory" and compact library (the internet) and communicating over distances impossible by almost every animal alive now, I think. (Whales can communicate stupid distances, and other large sealife, I am sure)

    I don't get the paranoia, here.
    Would you like to live in a world where everybody knew everything about you, including your habit of picking your nose by curving your hand up in to a claw, or your current vitals as you fainted at the cafe and the ambulance already being on the way to help you and arriving literally a few seconds after it?
    Or do you want to live in a world where nobody communicated face to face, where everything was anonymous. Basically 4chan as a reality.
    Phones are an acceptable privacy breach.
    Unless you are some sort of triple terrorist pedo human trafficker drug dealer murderer person, you are fine.
    Your worth to an advertiser is only for money.
    If you don't want to be stalked by society, go live in the woods already. Go take over a bit of Africa with all your wealth of knowledge and resources and build a super society and make it better than everywhere else. No? Then quit your bitching.

  • by cpu6502 ( 1960974 ) on Saturday July 14, 2012 @07:47PM (#40652039)

    Supposedly for 911 locating, but I suspect a secondary reason is for 9/11-related locating.

  • Re:Nope! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by girlintraining ( 1395911 ) on Saturday July 14, 2012 @07:54PM (#40652087)

    The cellular network has to know where you are to route calls to you.

    Not anymore than it's necessary to know where your TV station's broadcast tower is to receive programming content. It has to know which cell tower(s) your phone can communicate with. Pinpointing someone's location to within a few feet or meters is not necessary to perform the primary function of the phone; Locating a handset to within a narrow geographic footprint is an ancilliary function, and there is no reason for a carrier to maintain logs on a handset's location, travel speed, elevation, etc., except when playing a call to emergency services, in which case that information would only need to be available during the call, and perhaps for a limited time after to assist law enforcement in responding to the call out.

    If laws were passed banning the use of such information for any purposes other than network diagnostics (knowing that a lot of calls get dropped along a certain street, etc.), or for law enforcement, there would be no discernable degregation in service for the average cell phone user.

  • Re:Just say No (Score:4, Insightful)

    by BitterOak ( 537666 ) on Saturday July 14, 2012 @07:56PM (#40652095)

    There is a simple solution. Don't have a cell phone.

    That's not as easy as it used to be. When's the last time you saw a phone booth or a pay phone? There are a couple left in the city where I live, but not many. So, what happens when you have an emergency or your car breaks down and you need to call AAA? With the demise of pay phones, cell phones are no longer a luxury, they are a necessity.

  • by alen ( 225700 ) on Saturday July 14, 2012 @08:16PM (#40652211)

    i know someone who used to do that when he had his first cell phone years ago. no law says it has to stay on all the time

  • Re:Nope (Score:5, Insightful)

    by History's Coming To ( 1059484 ) on Saturday July 14, 2012 @08:23PM (#40652259) Journal
    Nope. The very fact that you've made the call will give a rough geolocation, typically within 20m or so in a city. Other calls can be similarly located, also texts and any other time the phone pings the base stations. Your daily route can be tracked and analysed from day to day. That's just with a basic phone. Connect to the internet and install a Facebook app, well, say goodbye to your privacy in theory.
  • off the mark (Score:3, Insightful)

    by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) on Saturday July 14, 2012 @09:23PM (#40652575) Journal

    An article in the NY Times argues that the devices we call 'cell phones' should instead be called 'trackers.'

    I think it would be more appropriate that police and corporate trackers should instead be called "domestic spies".

    Phones don't track you, people who want to know what you're doing track you. They're the ones that should be called "privacy violating domestic terrorists and trackers".

    I'm sorry, but if someone is tracking you without your expressed, overt permission, they are terrorists.

  • by Hartree ( 191324 ) on Saturday July 14, 2012 @09:44PM (#40652685)

    They can call you just fine.

    They'll get forwarded to voice mail.

    I consider this a feature, not a problem.

  • Re:Nope (Score:5, Insightful)

    by symbolset ( 646467 ) * on Saturday July 14, 2012 @10:08PM (#40652781) Journal
    You don't have to make a call to be triangulated. That bars signal level indicator, what is it doing? It's pinging every tower in range.
  • Re:Nope (Score:5, Insightful)

    by History's Coming To ( 1059484 ) on Sunday July 15, 2012 @07:13AM (#40654667) Journal
    You've clearly never been stalked by an ex.

    The big point here isn't what can be done, but what is done. All of this technology exists, and can be very useful in, for example, locating missing people. It could also be used to track people at protests to identify ringleaders. The technology is already here, we can't close the box, the important thing is whether suitable laws are in place to prevent misuse.

This process can check if this value is zero, and if it is, it does something child-like. -- Forbes Burkowski, CS 454, University of Washington