Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Now GPS Erodes Cell Phone Privacy Even Further

New cell phones equipped with GPS technology make it harder for us to get lost, but also harder for us to hide, from friends, from employers and the authorities.

Two new questions arise, courtesy of the latest advancement in cell phone technology: Do you want your friends, family, or colleagues to always know where you are at any given time? And do you want to know where they are?

Obvious benefits come to mind. Parents can take advantage of the Global Positioning System chips embedded in many cell phones to track the whereabouts of their phone-toting children.

Cell phones, already open to monitoring by entities both private and public via simple scanners (Newt Gingrich learned that the hard way), now offer GPS chips that could conceivably help employers track employees and police track targets holding cell phones.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is challenging the use of cell phone GPS in federal court.

Yeah, good luck stuffing that genie back in the bottle too!


Dan O. said...

It might be okay IF law enforcement needed a warrant before using any device to track a suspect.

JMK said...

That's the thing Dan, there are different rules for cell phones than landlines. To date prosecutors have been able to give the police permission to track cell phone calls.

That was done because (1) police argue that drug dealers and other criminals change cell phones frequently to avoid just such detection and (B) because, contrary to what some may believe, new technologies aren't automatically grandfathered in under existing privacy protections.

The limits of cell phone privacy are even now still winding their way through the courts.

A lot of people are unaware that cell phone privacy protections are pretty flimsy. Newt Gingrich found out the hard way that ANYONE can download a private cell phone conversation and sell it to any interested party.

That's been challenged and I believe that the courts have ruled that such third parties can indeed sell such communications, as the cell phone sattelites, antennas, etc are all "public use" utilities.

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