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back to article German Green extracts tracking info from mobile operator

A German Green Party member has successfully extracted the tracking information stored by his mobile operator, and created a map that shows his every movement over a six month period. The map uses the 35,000 instances when the cellphone owned by Malte Spitz registered with the local cell tower, all of which were stored by T- …

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Big Brother

It always makes me laugh...

....in even current US TV shows when the authorities try to "trace" a phone call placed from a mobile, then fail because the suspect hung up too soon. The fact that the phone's location can be determined at any time, whether in use or not, as long as it is powered on (and how many people ever turn off their phone these days?) seems to have escaped them...

Unless, of course, it's a ruse to lull your average would-be criminal into a false sense of security.

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re: It always makes me laugh...

It is a ruse. You'll also notice that it only takes them a few minutes to crack "military-grade" encryption.

i.e. message to all criminal types - don't bother with encryption as the police can crack it in about five minutes. It's ok to phone the police and taunt them from your mobile as long as you hang up before thirty seconds has elapsed - they'll never be able to find you if you do this...

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Black Helicopters

TV detective work ain't exactly realistic

It's like in the UK's very own Spooks, where they have instant access to every CCTV camera in London (which are all in HD) to track a pedestrian suspect in real time, except on the tube where no CCTV exists. They can implant a grain-of-sand sized combined GPS tracker and audio bug into the neck of an agent, but when a suspect gets away in a car with known numberplates, MI5 are mysteriously unaware of the (real) national ANPR system that would soon pick said car up.

There are of course a number of options as to why this might be;

1) It's part of a conspiracy to make real world crims unaware of the real capabilities of the security services; or

2) TV writers are themselves unaware of the real capabilities of the security services, and when they are aware of something they tend to discard it if that would make the story cooler/flow better/easier to write

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Go

@bill 20 - 30th Mar 11 14:33 GMT

TV shows have a long running habit of doing stuff like this, or at least the ones made in the US do. One rather high profile show (who wants to guess at its name?) on CBS once showed a late model G4 iMac in a close-up camera shot, ostensibly displaying a screenshot of its hardware configuration, which reported it to be running a "Generic Operating System", version and build number 5.0.2195 (Windows 2000's build number, if you were wondering). I'm one of these strange people who enjoys sitting there and watching for this stuff, and it shows up absolutely all of the time. I'm not complaining...I like it and it's usually more fun than watching the program in the normal way!

I don't assume malice when stupidity will do, so I guess the writers just don't have time or the expertise to fact check everything. Plus, I suppose, some stuff simply sounds better when it's been embellished or totally fabricated.

In reference to the article, that is just one of a few different reasons why I do not carry a running cell phone with me. I would grudgingly admit to having a little prepaid phone, but it's turned off 95% of the time. Most of the time, it ends up resting in the house because I have no desire or need to be *that* connected to the world.

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Stuff your title

My personal favorite Hollywood tech malapropism was from a movie, one of those Harrison Ford/ Tom Clancy ones IIRC, where they used the sound effects for a dot matrix for an ink jet printer.

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Big Brother

The Difference Engine

William Gibson's and Bruce Sterling's novel "The Difference Engine" has interesting allegorical significance with regard to living in an information-oriented and -controlled society.

In the novel, Charles Babbage managed to get the funding he needed to complete his Difference and Analytical Engines. This jump-starts the Information Age about 125 years too early.

-- -- (Note: I'm placing the start of our "real" information age at 1975, give-or-take, as it is around this time that medium-sized and larger businesses/government agencies started to make significant investments in minicomputers, mainframes, and process automation.)

By the time the 1850s roll in, the UK and French governments are using steam-powered, punch-card-programmed, mechanical computers to conduct surveillance on a massive scale. France has grown into a world-wide Empire, having won the Battle of Waterloo, and the UK's peerage system has morphed into a technocracy.

Very interesting read, and I highly recommend it to El' Reg's readership.

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Statistics

"we're all being tracked all the time just in case the police want to know where we were at some point in the future."

Ah, no, not quite. We are all being tracked all the time in case we want to actually use our mobile phones. The data is kept so the operators can see who wants to use there phones, when they want to use them and where they want to use them so that the operators can make sure they have enough capacity so you can use your phones. The fact that the police can request access to that data is secondary.

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Boffin

Not statistics but invasion of privacy

"The data is kept so the operators can see who wants to use there phones, when they want to use them and where they want to use them so that the operators can make sure they have enough capacity so you can use your phones. The fact that the police can request access to that data is secondary."

Not really. If the operators needed data to make sure there was enough capacity they would only need to know the number of phones, and calls made, not every phonenumber and IMEI under the celltower. The only reason such a extensive and intrusive register is kept, is police. It would be quite easy and more productive to sanitize the data of privacy information.

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Black Helicopters

UK version

Could you get a year's worth of your own movements from UK telcos under the DPA? Has anyone attempted it?

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Bronze badge
Thumb Up

Yes, I think you could

...but you would have just as much trouble as our German friend. The telco would still maintain that it was expensive (and might want you to pay for the costs) but the DPA gives you the right to see all the personal data that the telco holds on you, and the fact that they identify you personally with the IMEI of your phone would make that data personal to you. I believe. Otherwise, it wouldn't have any probative value for the police in deducing personal movements, would it?

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Big Brother

A thought

It seems to me that the old tobacco tin is looking ever more useful.

Not only can you put all your RFID passport, credit cards etc. in it, but it is comfortably sized to take your (switched off) phone too.

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Silver badge
Alert

Ker-ching

"The operators claim the data is extremely hard to extract"

Given that the operators should know their database structures very well, how hard can it be to run a simple SQL Select that filters on Phone number and possibly time? Methinks it's just an excuse by the operators to extract more dough form th eplod

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Anonymous Coward

Operators...

Network management systems at at least operator who I used to work for are SO ass backwards (think onions and onions of upgrades sold to them over 20 years) that actually I don't think they have any idea how to get info out easily

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Google latitude

Nothing to it if you have an Android phone. Just install Latitude and you can create your own animations of your travels across google maps.

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always off

I only use my cell to make out-going calls so, yes, I only turn it on to make a call and then turn it off afterwards.

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They can trace you

Even when your phone is off. The only solution is to eat your SIM card.

Also, do you change your voice when you talk? I heard IRA voices are very popular...

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Black Helicopters

tin hat theory states

that turning off the phone is not enough - as some don't actually 'turn off' totally.... If you want to be sure you have to remove the battery as well (kind of difficult in an iphone)

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Black Helicopters

turning off? just runs a different program , it's still on

there was the case a few years ago of a French 'alleged' anarchist who was arrested for going to a 'secret' meeting *without* his mobe. The direction centrale du renseignement intérieur considered NOT carrying a phone one evening to be sufficient motive for a little chat....

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Bronze badge

Quis custodiet

"You'd need to be law enforcement to get the same data on anyone else ..."

Aside from family and friends, I think I prefer it when personal information is either available to everyone or to no one.

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Umm....

http://www.detica.com/technologies/detica-dataretain/

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