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Mobile Phone Tracking

Mobile phone tracking is the ascertaining of the position or location of a mobile phone, whether stationary or moving.

mobile phone with gps laying on map background

mobile phone with gps laying on map background

Localization may occur either via multilateration of radio signals between (several) cell towers of the network and the phone, or simply via GPS. To locate a mobile phone using multilateration of radio signals, it must emit at least the roaming signal to contact the next nearby antenna tower, but the process does not require an active call. The Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) is based on the phone’s signal strength to nearby antenna masts.

Mobile positioning may include location-based services that disclose the actual coordinates of a mobile phone, which is a technology used by telecommunication companies to approximate the location of a mobile phone, and thereby also its user.

Locating or positioning touches upon delicate privacy issues, since it enables someone to check where a person is without the person’s consent. Strict ethics and security measures are strongly recommended for services that employ positioning.
In 2012 Malte Spitz held a TED talk on the issue of mobile phone privacy in which he showcased his own stored data that he received from Deutsche Telekom after suing the company. He described the data, which consists of 35,830 lines of data collected during the span of Germany’s data retention at the time, saying, “This is six months of my life […] You can see where I am, when I sleep at night, what I’m doing.” He partnered up with ZEIT Online and made his information publicly available in an interactive map which allows users to watch his entire movements during that time in fast-forward. Spitz concluded that technology consumers are the key to challenging privacy norms in today’s society who “have to fight for self determination in the digital age.”

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