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Cell Phones: Personal Tracking and Bugging Devices

Discussion in 'Legal' started by roo_ster, Aug 12, 2005.

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  1. roo_ster

    roo_ster Member

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    OK, so maybe the guys who hack their phones to run a version of embeded linux on them aren't just super-geeked out hobbysts who have never had a date.

    Anybody know one? I'm willing to set one up to go on an actual date with an actual girl in return for a favor...


    http://www.guardian.co.uk/mobile/article/0,2763,1542338,00.html
    (Bold face is mine)

    Kinda makes the whole bug-placing operation moot when your subject carries a the bug/tracking device for you.
     
  2. rms/pa

    rms/pa Member

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    oh my.

    as for me ,i have managed to lose two cell phones and a beeper before my wife got the hint.

    rms/pa
     
  3. NukemJim

    NukemJim Member

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    I do not know about the cell phones but I do know that the US .gov can and has done it with "OnStar" in vehicles. There was a court case about it and the .gov won.

    NukemJim
     
  4. 1 old 0311

    1 old 0311 member

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    The same holds true for cable TV. MOST new sets also have a sending capability. This can be activated with a court order. My brother works for a cable company and said this has been around for a few years.

    Kevin
     
  5. Echo Tango

    Echo Tango Member

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    I get the feeling theres gonna be a riot.
    Tracking

    I am sorry to say, this is something that actually can be done. There are several documented occasions where lost hikers have been "saved" because they were able to be located via their cell phones. Its a transcevier, its going to broadcast a signal, short of turning it off they are going to be able to locate your where abouts. As for turning on the speaker, no clue about that, can't imagine that would be to hard to do however.
     
  6. Ukraine Train

    Ukraine Train Member

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    Most phones advertise GPS capability so that if you call 911 an equipped dispatch center can figure out where you are. I'm no computer geek but I'm sure you can make it send your location with the phone just sitting there.
     
  7. RaggedClaws

    RaggedClaws Member

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    My cell phone is for outgoing calls only. I keep it turned off and in my backpack most times (these days it's turned on and in my pocket, but that's because my wife is very pregnant). If someone calls me on my cellphone, I don't answer it. I listen to the message and then call them back on a land line or send them an email. Suffice it to say, nobody calls me on my cell phone anymore unless it's an emergency.
     
  8. Bacchus

    Bacchus Member

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    Ukraine Train: Most phones advertise GPS capability so that if you call 911 an equipped dispatch center can figure out where you are. I'm no computer geek but I'm sure you can make it send your location with the phone just sitting there.

    Exactly right. My phone has the option to turn the GPS on or off. I have specified that the GPS will only be activated if I dial 911, but who knows....
     
  9. cuchulainn

    cuchulainn Member

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    No offense, but so what?

    Look, I agree that it's annoying in a Big Brother sort of way that the authorities have the ability to track me because I carry a cell phone. But, again, so what?

    They have the ability to track me because I use credit cards. They have the ability to track me because I have a license plate on my car. The list goes on.

    The question is: Are they tracking me? Nope. I'm pretty boring. Thus I can "safely" use all the modern conveniences.

    If I ever decide to do something for which I'd expect the authorities to track me, I'll get rid of the cell phone, the credit cards and a bunch of other things. Until then, I'll even leave open some of the blinds on my windows so the police can, gasp, look into my house if they want.

    No, I'm not using the copout, "If you aren't doing something wrong, why are you worried about it?" I'm simply saying that it's an acceptable risk to me -- right now, getting rid of the acceptable risk of my cell phone or my credit cards (which I pay off in full every month btw) would be as silly as getting rid of the acceptable risk of my guns or my car.
     
  10. Control Group

    Control Group Member

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    To sort-of quote Bruce Schneier, "security through obscurity isn't."

    Still and all, you are, of course, right. There's nothing to do about it aside from ditch the cell phone. And, for both you and I, the convenience of the cell phone outweighs the cost in privacy violation, so it's something we just put up with.

    That doesn't mean that it's not a fundamental violation of our traditional privacy rights and Constitutional search and seizure protections. It might be a violation that we can't do anything about and have to resign ourselves to, but that's not the same thing as accepting it. While you're right that we can be tracked by credit cards and licenses plates, there is (at least, IMHO) a basic difference between this cell phone tracking and those. Credit cards are discrete and obvious, you know when you conduct a transaction that it's being logged. Moreover, tracking you via credit card use is, of necessity, a post-event activity. Some time after the card is swiped, someone can see that it happened. Since you're not constantly using your card, it's impossible to get real-time intelligence on your activities. The license plate, on the other hand, is real-time while you're driving, but can't be accessed by remote (yet).

    The cell phone bugging (I'm tempted to say "buggery"), however, is both at-a-distance and real-time. It really is a significant step further towards total surveillance than credit cards and license plates. Is it the end of the world, the death of freedom, or the spark that will start The Revolution? No, of course not. It's something almost everyone will just shrug their shoulders over and say "yeah, well, it doesn't really affect me, so it's no biggie." And almost all of them will be right.

    Of course, that's the whole key to incrementalism, isn't it?
     
  11. Preacherman

    Preacherman Member

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    That's why a pay-as-you-go cellphone is a handy thing: it's not registered to your name. You can buy one, use it for a few days, dump it, and get another one. Terrorists do this all the time.

    On the other hand, since I doubt that my perambulations would be of any great interest to anybody, I won't bother...
     
  12. Control Group

    Control Group Member

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    Yep. And once again, efforts to stop bad things from happening to good people don't hurt anyone but the good people.

    The theme is so repetitive it's almost boring.
     
  13. cuchulainn

    cuchulainn Member

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    No. It's a potential violation. It's a doorway, but until the doorway is breached, there is no violation.

    I agree that the Big Brother potential is a tad annoying, but it's an acceptable risk, IMHO.

    And as someone has noted, cell phones have the option to turn off the GPS except for 911 calls. Assuming the option works (anyone know?), that's like having curtains on your house windows -- you control whether people can look at you.

    The remote bugging is something different, but that's not unique to cell phones. It goes for landlines too, not to mention other communication devices. Yes, it’s easier with cells.

    And speaking of windows, in most jurisdictions, you're required by fire codes to have a certain number of windows on your house (especially on bedrooms). Yep, the authorities are requiring you to have devices on your house that might facilitate their breaching your privacy. But until they do something, there's no violation.

    It doesn't bother me.
     
  14. DelayedReaction

    DelayedReaction Member

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    Arguing that being able to track people via cellphones is a breach of privacy is like arguing that possessing a gun makes you a murderer. Both technologies have the ability to perform those actions, but neither is valid until it occurs.

    And to be honest, this isn't the kind of thing that was intentionally developed. Cellphones emit electromagnetic radiation in the same way that radios do. By having two cell phone towers determine the direction of that radiation, you can determine the location of the source. It's a function of the technology.
     
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2005
  15. WT

    WT Member

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    This capability has been around for awhile.


    In 1992 NJ prosecutor Michael Chertoff (name sound familiar?) prosecuted a couple who kidnapped and murdered Exxon executive Sidney Reso. The state and feds found the couple by tracking their cell phones.

    It took a little time because the couple kept moving and the police usually arrived at their previous location only a minute or two after the couple had left.

    The couple is now enjoying the hospitality of a NJ state prison.

    "Improvements" to cell phone tracking were made after this case.
     
  16. cuchulainn

    cuchulainn Member

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    Actually, the GPS capabilities were prompted by the government to facilitate response to 911 calls.

    Read this about FCC's E911 (Enhanced 911) rules -- http://www.fcc.gov/911/enhanced/

    But you're absolutely correct, it's a potential, nothing more. And I'll add that no one is forcing us to accept this potential. We do so freely, knowing the potential (and remote) risks. There's no violation.
     
  17. Zundfolge

    Zundfolge Member

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    I'm sorry, but unless you back that one up with a reliable source I'm calling shenanigans :scrutiny:

    If its true, is it the TV or the cable box? I don't believe that manufacturers installed microphones on either, but hey, if I'm wrong I'll be cutting into my TVs to remove them :)


    As for the Cell Phone thing, the simple solution is to remove your battery when you're not using the phone (or, if you're really mechanically inclined, you could wire in a switch that manually cuts off the battery)
     
  18. mtnbkr

    mtnbkr Member

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    What exactly would they send and how?

    Chris
     
  19. taliv

    taliv Moderator

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    Are you sure you're not talking about GSM? GSM is a technology like CDMA that allows you to do some spiffy extra stuff on your phone.

    When 911 locates a phone, they do so by triangulation. i.e. your signal is picked up by three different cell towers, and they measure the times the signals were received and figure out where you are.

    They do not, to my knowledge, install GPS in phones, which would require your phone to have another antenna and to receive and process info from the satellites, and then send that info to the 911 PSAP.

    If you're turning the GSM option off on your phone, you're probably just disabling the digital part and forcing yourself to use analog signals (if you have a dual or triband phone) which does nothing but sound crappier and run your battery out faster.


    (edit: just to be clear, if the e911 stuff worked using GPS, it would ONLY work on phones that had GPS built in. in fact, it works on all phones, including old analog phones. (recall the chechnyan terrorist over 5 years ago who got whacked by a missile after they called his cell phone to locate him)
     
  20. Control Group

    Control Group Member

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    Point taken; I think we disagree on what qualifies as a violation. In my view, a video camera in my bedroom is, in itself, a violation of my privacy, whether or not anyone is watching or recording what it sees.

    I suspect I'm about to be blasted for a slippery slope fallacy. ;) Bear in mind, however, that I'm not arguing cell phone tracking is bad because of bedroom video cameras, I'm simply illustrating my opinion that a potential avenue of privacy violation, if I am required to provide the avenue, equates to a violation of privacy to me. I draw no conclusions from this statement; it is simply a statement of personal opinion.

    "Many jurisdictions require you to have windows in your bedroom. Cell phone tracking is analogous to windows in your bedroom, therefore cell phone tracking is not an invasion of your privacy." The argument is sound, as long as one agrees that requirements for bedroom windows are not an invasion of privacy; I don't accept that premise. It's not an invasion of privacy that I particularly care about (since I would have bedroom windows regardless of statutory requirements), but I would be on the side of someone who didn't want to have bedroom windows because he didn't want people able to look into his bedroom.
     
  21. Control Group

    Control Group Member

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    Fair enough. My problem is that I trust individuals, I do not trust governments. I would not be bothered if every homeowner in my city set up a video camera on his front lawn and taped everything that went on. I would be bothered if the government set up a video camera on every corner and taped everything that went on. I admit to holding a double standard in this regard.

    Traingulating location is a side effect of the technology, true. But that's not the part that bothers me; if nothing else, that only works when my phone is communicating with the network. The ability to remotely activate the microphone and have my phone transmit sound into the network without me knowing it is the part that bothers me. Analogously, reconstruction of my speed after an accident (via skid marks, impact analysis, etc) is a side effect of car technology, and doesn't bother me. A mandatory "black box" under the hood which records the same information does bother me.
     
  22. cuchulainn

    cuchulainn Member

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    Not if you freely and willingly put the camera there yourself with full knowlege of the potential for breach of your privacy and with 100% control over whether it was on.

    You freely and willingly opt to use a cell phone with full knowledge of the potential for breach of your privacy and you have 100% control over whether it is on (take the battery out).

    If you were forced to put a camera in your bedroom or to carry a cell phone, you've have a point.

    :) btw
     
  23. geekWithA.45

    geekWithA.45 Moderator Emeritus

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    Any speaker can be coerced into being a microphone, it's just that most aren't all that great at that task.

    One of the old cold war spy tricks was to co-opt radio speakers for that purpose.

    Re: Cable...most modern set top boxes are full blown computers under the hood, and they engage in 2 way communication with the cable provider's network. Essentially, for high channels, the STB has a built in cable modem that sets up a tcp/ip circuit to shuffle the media around.
     
  24. Greg L

    Greg L Member

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    The shows that you watch/record (if Tivo/DVR). They can then directly target market to you. In my case an offer from the History Channel would get much more attention than one from the Soap Opera Channel.

    The information is sent out through the receiver via the phone in my case. In theory the outgoing call is only to let them know if I've authorized pay per view movies (never have but I still have to have the phone line hooked up), however I have no doubt that there is a database somewhere that total the # of viewers per program.
     
  25. Control Group

    Control Group Member

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    Touché. I still feel there is a point to be made in that the choice to carry a cell phone was made prior to the possibility of it being used as an audio surveillance device activated by remote without my knowledge, and the potential violation was built into the system after a degree of dependence on the system had been created. To return momentarily to the bedroom window, this is rather like the introduction of a technology which could somehow use the window to see every corner of your home, regardless of curtains. The window is still voluntary, but the risk associated with it has been greatly increased after your decision to have the window.

    Nonetheless, I have to concede the argument about whether it is, in itself, a violation of privacy - after all, you could always board up the window, and you can always ditch the cell phone. I'll downgrade my opinion from "violation of privacy" to "significant threat to privacy which makes me generally displeased."
     
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