Cell phone location tracking is a controversial subject for many people. Everyone that calls 911 for emergency assistance is certainly in favor of having the emergency dispatcher know exactly where to send help. However most of us feel uneasy not knowing who is monitoring our location and for what purposes. It is generally accepted that you have the right to monitor the location of any cell phone you own either as an individual or as a business. Beyond this point gathering cell phone location tracking information enters a gray area.
Law enforcement agencies do routinely seek warrants for the purpose of tracking the location of cell phones. These warrants are supposed to be supported by sound probable cause sworn before a magistrate or judge. However it appears that up to recently the constitutional protections of the 4th amendment have been abused by many law enforcement agencies. When properly used, cell phone location tracking is a powerful tool for law enforcement.
New technology allows 911 emergency dispatchers and cell phone companies to locate just about any phone to within 200 to 300 feet. In accordance with FCC E911 regulations all new cell phones must have GPS technology built into the phone. These GPS chip sets greatly enhance the cell phone location tracking accuracy. It is not uncommon to expect location accuracy to be less than 30 feet in an outdoor environment. Infrastructure in terms of building and bridges as well as some natural terrain features will degrade this accuracy to some extent. Never the less you can be relatively sure that the location of just about any cell phone with the new GPS chip set can be found.
Recently several companies have emerged that will for a fee locate just about any cell phone. This service is used by bail bondsmen, parents, spouses looking for a cheating partner and private investigators. This has many privacy advocates crying foul. In addition some phone companies are also offering cell phone location tracking to their subscribers for a reasonable monthly fee. You simply log on to the service with your computer and download the location and mapping information.
Privacy policies of most phone carriers limit access to cell phone location tracking information to the individuals and business that own the phones. If you are using an employer owned phone then that employer has the right to monitor all aspects of the phones use. This includes where the phone is being used and for what purposes. Normally the tracking feature on cell phones is only available when the cell phone is turned on. You can in most cases prevent tracking by simply turning it off and or removing the battery. However to prevent criminals from doing this some cell phones have hidden back batteries that continue to give cell phone tracking information without the battery being installed.
The new tracking requirements of the FCC E911 regulations has already proven to save lives during emergencies. However the use of cell phone location tracking information in non emergency situations has many people worried about the loss of their privacy.