Bedford Ramblings
Steve Mills

Reader concerned about mobile device tracking. What do you think?

Posted Wednesday, December 11, 2013, at 8:59 AM
View 15 comments
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  • It is my understanding that this technology is what gives us the traffic reports to show slow or stopped traffic on the road system. One good point.

    A bad point could be knowing where you are at any given point in the day. Most phones have the ability to turn that off or actually increase the traceability, should you so desire.

    Something I don't know is if turning the feature off REALLY turns it off or just makes it challenging to get the information. In that case, the only true way to turn it off would be to remove the power source, which cannot be done with the I-phone, or can it?

    I have my phone turned on so I can locate it if (actually when) I misplace it. I have not had to use it yet, but it would have come in handy about a year ago when I left it on the truck bumper and drove off. Lucky for me a nice person in Bell Buckle was jogging in the country and found it on a side road.

    -- Posted by stevemills on Wed, Dec 11, 2013, at 7:06 AM
  • By federal law all cell phones must have GPS capability. This can be activated remotely even if you turn off the feature, It can even be activated when the device is turned off, with no knowledge of the user.

    Also any on-board cameras or microphones can likewise be remotely activated.

    Removing the battery will work as will putting it in a faraday cage (basically a metal container that blocks radio signals), but both negate the benefit of having the device.

    Government has been spying on us through our technology for as long as both have existed.

    Even the old black Ma-Bell phones weren't exempt from this.

    If you look up various government rules you will see this is by design. For example, FCC rule 15 outlaws "shielding" any electronic device to prevent said spying or outside control.

    If the idea of phone hacking bothers you, consider that it is now possible to hack and remotely control another's vehicle (most modern vehicles anyway).


    -- Posted by quietmike on Wed, Dec 11, 2013, at 7:15 PM
  • For more "tin-foil hat" reality consider Hitachi's "tracking dust".

    A RFID chip that measures .05x.05 mm, and that was back in 2007.


    -- Posted by quietmike on Wed, Dec 11, 2013, at 7:22 PM
  • I suppose the "burner" phone, battery installed only when making outgoing calls, would be the only way to use cellular technology and stay as invisible as possible.

    -- Posted by stevemills on Thu, Dec 12, 2013, at 11:33 AM
  • We are getting to the point where NOT having a tracking device in your pocket will make you a suspect since they can't tell where you've been. That's why they will continue to push for everyone to be chipped. "Everyone wants the new EyePhone"

    -- Posted by Steve G on Fri, Dec 13, 2013, at 12:47 AM
  • Chipped? Like implant? That would set off my "1984" buzzer.

    -- Posted by stevemills on Fri, Dec 13, 2013, at 7:31 AM
  • Hmmm, though I could see something like that for convicted child molesters, rapists, drug traffickers and any other heinous criminal who attacks people and could have a propensity to do it again. (Serial ......)

    Convicted is the key word for me and when they are paroled, the chip is only in there for the time of their parole.

    Maybe a new topic?

    -- Posted by stevemills on Fri, Dec 13, 2013, at 7:39 AM
  • It seems as though Steve G is more or less accurate. According to the leaked documents, the appearance of prepaid devices with different numbers--as opposed to being renewed--appearing in succession at the same location, or alternatively phones that are turned off except when in use will draw a more intense scrutiny.

    I cannot wrap my mind around chips just yet. I am still struggling with the scope of the phones. I do not consider myself naive. I have long had a degree of certainty that people who are not shy about espousing certain political leanings (like myself) are being logged online. What is the most troubling to me is that they apparently do not even try to narrow it down. It seems as though EVERYONE in the world is a target. I just cant understand what the benefit might be.

    -- Posted by memyselfi on Fri, Dec 13, 2013, at 8:27 AM
  • Raw intelligence gathering is just that, VERY raw. I doubt that they do much with it until or if something happens.

    After 9/11 I believe much more profiling is going on and I can't say that I object. If I change cell phones every time my preloaded time is used up, I am acting suspiciously and I should expect to be scrutinized.

    If I am doing that and frequenting fertilizer stores, etc. ......

    -- Posted by stevemills on Fri, Dec 13, 2013, at 10:37 AM
  • And now the new Iphone will need your fingerprint everything anybody needs about you tied up in one neat little package

    -- Posted by Dianatn on Fri, Dec 13, 2013, at 1:35 PM
  • I am not as certain as you seem to be that nothing will happen to it. Yes, it is raw data--and it is so voluminous that only a very cursory examination of it can even be done with current technology. The thing is though, it is being saved. There are huge complexes being built to store it.

    I also see your point about it possibly being worthwhile to prevent another 9/11 or Oklahoma City, but I am not at all convinced that it could, that it would be worth it, or if that is even the purpose of the exercise. I hope I do not come across as insensitive to the pain and turmoil caused by such incidents; that is not the case. I guess I just measure the costs from a different perspective.

    The first problem is short-term and it is the effects of self-censorship. How many people regulate their activities based upon the possibility of being tracked? I am guessing it is enough to change the tone of public discourse, even in a forum like this one. I know that I have personally second-guessed my own comments. Whenever there are unspoken taboos, it is difficult to have a dialogue that includes anything resembling a full spectrum of ideas. Often, just the threat of scrutiny is enough to reign in our declarations.

    The second problem is long-term and is much more nefarious. Imagine a world wherein every phone call you ever participated in throughout your live, every letter you sent or received, every book you ever read, every romantic liaison you ever shared, every business transaction you ever conducted, and every mistake, indiscretion, and thoughtless action or word that was in any way linked to you had been logged for all of your life. Now, add to that the realization that by the nature of the logging, the identities of the people with whom you were interacting with were also known, complete with the same intimate details logged about them. Now imagine running for political office. That is what the candidates of 2052 will face if we do not curtail at least the most aggressive of these abuses. All of these activities--which we have long taken for granted as being protected--are now vulnerable due to the way in which we now do them.

    There are only two types of people who could politically endure in that reality. Those who were in the good graces of whomever was in possession of the files--or alternatively, those who were fortunate enough to be born into this world constituted in such a way as to be unfailingly virtuous and moral. Democracy (what little we have left of it) will be extinct.

    It may sound paranoid, but look at the last sixty years. They were apparently just a preparation exercise for what we seem to have now. There has been an almost continuous manipulation of intelligence for political gains. From the red scares to J.E. Hoover to the most recent IRS scandals, with a lot of interesting stops in between. In this particular instance, knowledge IS power--most likely unelected and unaccountable power.

    -- Posted by memyselfi on Sun, Dec 15, 2013, at 7:06 AM
  • memyselfi. I see your point very well. However, as soon as we went wireless, I think we inadvertently gave up our right to privacy because anyone with a little knowledge of electronic transmission can probably intercept our conversations.

    I agree also that someone, in a place of authority will abuse information gathered, but can we stop the gathering without violating other people's right? Nasty slope all the way around.

    I also agree that anyone running for office needs to have a very thick skin, great damage control and still be squeaky clean. If Mother Teresa had run for political office she would not be considered the Saint that she is today.

    It does not have to be true, just spread around like the crap it is. There is something I think we could do to help future campaigns. Make political campaigns subject to slander and defamation prosecution.

    Bottom line, I agree with your concerns and I also agree with my thoughts about safety (obviously) so the answer is somewhere in between, but what it is......

    -- Posted by stevemills on Sun, Dec 15, 2013, at 9:46 AM
  • I am very much troubled by those who are willing to give away liberties in exchange for the promised security it will bring. I do not believe it will happen. The liberties will be gone and the crimes will continue.

    How, stevemills, are rights violated by not violating rights?

    -- Posted by Steve G on Sun, Dec 15, 2013, at 12:05 PM
  • If you think its just raw data, ask yourself why the NSA's new Utah data center's computers can store over a yottabyte (one thousand trillion gigabytes) of information and can process it at 100 petaflops (100,000 trillion calculations a second).


    One only has to look to history to see the why. Government loves power and makes enemies of those who would limit that power. This type of tracking and data storage makes identifying and dealing with so called "subversives" much more efficient.

    As for the supposed security that is thr smokescreen to justify this, you are statistically more likely to be killed by a police officer than a terrorist.

    If we're really concerned with terrorism, why is our border still wide open?

    -- Posted by quietmike on Sun, Dec 15, 2013, at 4:26 PM
  • I do not feel that any of my primary liberties have been taken away. I choose to live in a lawful society, and I accept that some of my freedoms will have to be forfeited.

    I can no longer drive at any speed I wish, walk down the street naked, carry my firearms into schools or shoot at planes flying over my land because they bother me.

    I obviously chose accepted (I think) limits on our freedom to make a point. If we are going to live in a peaceful society, there have to be laws and laws limit a person's right to do whatever they wish.

    Yes, it requires trust and oversight, but I believe in allowing those who protect us to use modern tools to do their job. I've acknowledged that this authority over our lives can be abused, so opposing opinions help keep that in check.

    Anyone who is troubled by that, has every right to be so troubled and to express that concern. Freedom of speech is one of those primary liberties that I support.

    -- Posted by stevemills on Sun, Dec 15, 2013, at 8:25 PM
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