Location Information on Cell Phones Can Fall Into Many Hands
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Location Information on Cell Phones Can Fall Into Many Hands

Cellphones each have a unique identifier number that comes in the form of an electronic serial number. The electronic serial number is also referred to as international mobile subscriber numbers. This makes it possible for companies in their network to know which phone a number is connected to, which is referred to as tracking. Harris Corporation is one company that creates a whole catalog of such devices. The U.S. Company, which is based in Florida, have editions that go by names such as Kingfish, StingRay, Hailstorm, etc.

With tracking of this nature, people who are law-abiding citizens may find that their information is among that of those who are under suspicion of illegal activity. In other words, if police requests information from a cell phone company because of a series of crimes in a certain geographic area, phone records for people who communicated with towers in the area where the crimes took place are provided to them.

Perhaps they can find the criminal through this method, but innocent people's information are included in the collected data as well. The cell phone company has no way of weeding out the criminal, so they download all applicable numbers and leave it to the officials to sort out the details.

Courts are handing down opinions about this procedure of getting after-the-fact information because of privacy issues. Sometimes an extra hundred, up to several hundred thousand or more people's information is included in the cell phone company's report. That means their identifying information, location details and other information is shared.

Officials such as police can go to a phone company and request real-time data about somebody’s phone location and that will oftentimes relate to the phone company pinging the phone during certain time intervals so that the cell phone can report back its location.

What has been described is cell site location information (CSLI). Police can obtain data through either historical or real time. Both can be worrisome, and not just for criminals.

There is also an electronic device called a pen register. Pen registers record all numbers that are phoned from a particular telephone line. Similar devices are beginning to flood the market.

With all these advances in technology, people may very well be justified in their fears that their privacy is being violated or compromised. Even when the outcome is that a criminal is caught and the city streets are safer for it, many ponder whether the ends truly justify the means. 

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