Friday, April 15, 2011

Cell Phone Tracking Disadvantages

Cell phones have changed the way we look at communication. It is a convenience that has allowed us to keep in touch with others no matter where we are at the moment. Now with the addition of GPS, we have the ability to locate people. While it seems like a good idea in many situations, it can be abused. An ex-boyfriend, relative, or stranger may have malicious intentions. There is also the concern about identity theft. It can be dangerous even if you think it will not happen to you.
For the most part, we want to think that law enforcement and the government have our best interests when it comes to personal safety and security. The FCC requires cell phone providers to have records of their customer location information. In addition, current cell phone tracking laws give them too much leeway since a cell phone trace can be granted even without a warrant. Only general information needs to be provided to a judge or say that it is part of an ongoing criminal investigation. Does this mean that cell phone tracking used in this manner a violation of our right to privacy? It is a gray area since the definition of a criminal activity is not always clear. Like any other consumer product with new features, cell phones with GPS make them more expensive to purchase. It is now becoming a standard requirement that cell phone manufacturers install GPS in their products.

Other Cell Phone Tracking Disadvantages
While cell phone tracking can be very effective, it does have a couple of limitations. GPS enabled cell phones cannot be located if your phone is not on. Since most people are aware that tracking cell phones is possible, individuals who abduct someone can simply get rid of it. A person can also disable the phone by setting by what is sometimes called the “hide” feature. Some may even have the option to allow tracking only in 911 situations. However, some consumers may not be aware of this feature since many cell phone manufacturers do not put it in a convenient place for you to find. Another problem is that cell phones can have reception problems. Signals can be lost in particular locations like among tall building or in heavily forested terrain.Cell phone tracking is a powerful tool, but there are disadvantages and limitations. As with any new technology, there will always be someone who will try to exploit it. By being aware of how things work, the better we are able to take steps to protect ourselves to avoid potential problems.
Of course, cell phone tracking constitutes a major invasion of privacy, regardless of whether the intention is good or bad. Are you sure that this is the right course of action? Whether you're trying to figure out who that obnoxious prank caller is or attempting to track your child, it's a thorny web of should-I-or-should-I-nots. Consider whether this is really what you want to do before proceeding.How most cell phone tracking works is typically by triangulating the “pings” made by the cell phone to the nearest cell towers. GPS-enabled cell phones don't require cell towers, and may be located anywhere in the world by satellite triangulation in a similar manner. Cell phone companies are required by law in the United States to be able to locate cell phones to an accuracy of 100 feet, so that emergency vehicles will be able to locate the caller in need.

Wait, so what's the problem? Well, cell phones are notoriously difficult to track, just inherent in the nature of the device: they're not tied down to a fixed address as with landlines, but rather can roam freely. So, there's no easy directory with a name and address associated with every phone number, like old telephone books, let alone some accessible method to track individual cell phones in real time - at least one that is available to civilians. Here’s an overview of some of the possible solutions:
Tracking Websites

So, what about all those free cell phone tracking websites that seem to be cropping up? The ones where you just have to type in the number in question? Can't they track the location of a mobile phone?Frankly, no. I have yet to stumble upon one of these websites that actually works. From sites like “Reverse Phone Detective” to “Track The Number”, none of them provide accurate location information. While I personally have not investigated the fee websites, most accounts seem to point towards scams that are just out for your money—and won't tell you what you need to know.

Caller ID

As you might imagine, caller ID is far more likely to work with landlines than cell phones. In fact, there really isn't much by way of caller ID for cell phones at all that provides anything beyond the number—and even that won't work for restricted numbers.Even the best caller ID software on your cell phone is not guaranteed to work all the time, never coming up with a name associated with the number that called you, let alone tracking the location of the call. Mostly, this is because disparate cell phone companies have not been able to work together to come up with a directory of cell phones, partially due to public outcry over invasion of privacy.So, that's one less piece of data that you're able to acquire from a cell phone number alone, let alone real time location!
Google It!

If you're trying to figure out the general location of the owner of the number, as opposed to real time tracking, a good old (or not so old) fashioned Google search will probably do the trick. The person might have been un-paranoid (or unaware) enough to have it publicly posted on a social networking site, along with other potentially location-identifying information. Again, this is a small chance, and it won't work in real time.

Experienced hackers don't have any problems with any of this. It is perfectly possible to track a cell phone's location - after all, the cell phone companies do it - even if you just know the number and have had no physical access to it, without the user having any indication of this happening. While this hasn't reached epidemic levels, the possibility is there.
Cell Phone Tracking Software

The only guaranteed way to really track a cell phone is through some sort of installed software on the device itself. This can be anything from a child tracking service, such as Verizon's Chaperone, to fun phone apps where you can track your friends' locations.

However, this generally requires physical access to the phone, and consent of the user—both of which might be difficult to get, and probably defeats the point of what you're trying to do here.


AccuTracking is a software program that is compatible with many cell phone makes and models. If you have Boost Mobile, a BlackBerry, a Windows Mobile phone or one of the many other GPS-enabled phone models, you can download the free Tracker to your cell phone. The AccuTracking service was initially free. However, they have seemingly met the limit of free accounts and now offer subscription packages that range from $5.99 to $9.99 a month. The first month of the service is free, so you can use the tracker for a few weeks at no charge and determine whether you wish to continue using it.

The online tracker offered by AccuTracking has numerous cool, helpful features. When you log on to the website with the account associated with the GPS cell phone you wish to track, you will be provided with a map with real-time locations. You can check the recent history of locations, which will not only give you the time at the location but also the speed limit traveled between locales. If you have several GPS cell phones, you can use the tracker to watch them all on one account. A feature that many parents might appreciate is the "geofence" capability. You can set up a geofence, which is a virtual boundary for the cell phone user. If the GPS cell phone is taken outside of that boundary, you will receive an alert.

InstaMapper is an online GPS cell phone tracker that is currently 100% free. After you register online, you install the InstaMapper application to a GPS-enabled cell phone. Then, when you log on to the website, an interactive Google map will appear with the location of the cell phone. The map's details are updated every few seconds, with a moving dot on the map representing the GPS cell phone, so it is pretty close to real-time tracking. You can even embed your location to your personal blog, web page or social networking site, which is a fun feature if you are traveling abroad, and your friends and family want to keep tabs on you. It keeps records for up to 100,000 positions for the cell phone, and offers details such as altitude and rate of speed as well. Another free online cell phone tracker is BuddyWay. Simply register at the website and download the free software to your GPS cell phone. The phone's position will be sent to BuddyWay's server, and all you need to do is log online to find out details such as the current location and the length of travel time. Some features that parents of young drivers might appreciate in this tracker include the history of speed limits - including maximum speeds and average speeds as well as the GPS coordinates that were visited along the way - for those times when your teen is "just going to the library." If you are traveling, BuddyWay gives you some enjoyable features as well. For example, you can take pictures with your GPS cell phone and use the application to post them online at the BuddyWay website along with a brief note, making it a great way to share your travels with loved ones.

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