Saturday, March 5, 2011

Beijing to Track People's Movements via Their Mobile Phones

I thought the following article may interest others.

“China plans on tracking the movements of people in Beijing using their mobile phones, a measure that while aimed at relieving traffic congestion, could set off concerns over misuse.”... Read More

Today I was talking a family member and mentioned the article. What they weren’t aware of, is as they move around their day going here and there, their mobile phone is on and can provide their location. Even the most basic telephone can provide your approximate location to those who have access to the information.

Really it wouldn’t take much to track nearly all of us every day, since most of us now walk around with a mobile phone in our pocket.

A while ago I did some basic research. With some mobile phones you can see the cell ID. This is the cell tower your are connected to. If you think of a cell tower as covering an area of a circle, the cell ID also contains which third of the circle you are in. That gives a rough location and a direction from the cell tower. The is some form of time delay with your mobile phone communicating with the cell tower which changes with the distance from the cell tower and that provides an approximate distance. Now you have an approximate location of where you are and as you move, your movements can be tracked. All that is required is for that information to be logged and we are all able to have our movements recorded for a period.

The cell tower information is available to the telephone companies and the authorities. If you have a Smart phone and it is running an App which provides access to the location facilities in your mobile phone, then it is quite possible your movements could be being logged and maybe even sold off for who knows what use.

Of course we can all become quite paranoid about who might be tracking us. It is very easy to limit the tracking by turning your mobile off, but of course that means a loss of facility.

I actually think if might be very interesting to have a log of a year’s worth of travelling. I could analyse the information and work out where most of my travel was occurring. Often we think we know this type of information but I’m we’d be quite surprised at the results. By looking at our movements we may find more efficient ways to go to the places we regularly go, and that might end up saving us time, money and resources.

Next time you go walkabout, perhaps turn the mobile phone off to go off the radar for a while. Who knows, you just might enjoy the peace and quiet. But not too long as you might miss an important call. What did we do before mobiles came along!

Kelvin Eldridge


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