12-07-08 03:34 PM
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  1. StrictlyTopSecret's Avatar
    Well as it goes with GPS it is always on due to E911 laws. Although jenay makes a good point VZW does cripple the GPS for use only with VZ Nav. But it still allows 911 operators to "see" where you are in case of emergency.

    Good to know.

    Thank you, Spaciorek.

    ~STS~
    10-03-08 12:19 PM
  2. tarsij's Avatar
    Even if you could physically disable the E911 GPS, couldn't they just find out which cell towers your call went through and find your general location that way? Granted they would probably need a court order to do so, but it could be done...


    Working in a 911 center I can shed some light on this. The E911 GPS is not able to be disabled in ANY cell phone. This is federal law. If a 911 center does not get your coordinates (it does happen sometimes) we can call your provider (we almost always get that) and they can do a 911 trace. All this requires is us getting a police officer's signature on a form stating that it will be used only for a possible life threatening emergency and your carrier will do the trace. It is VERY rare that we do that but it can be done.
    10-03-08 12:47 PM
  3. StrictlyTopSecret's Avatar
    ... The E911 GPS is not able to be disabled in ANY cell phone. This is federal law....
    This is very useful information, and I value it. Thank you for taking the time to help me more fully understand this issue.

    Do you happen to know if it is a violation of federal law for the end user to modify the phone (i.e., disable GPS) or if it is a violation of federal law only for carriers (e.g., Verizon) to sell/activate non GPS/E911 capable devices?

    Appreciatively,
    ~STS~
    10-03-08 01:03 PM
  4. s4bill's Avatar
    Call Jack Bauer - he will have CTU do a super satellite jam on your location.
    Ok - maybe not.

    The irony of all of this is that many of us have been begging and petitioning to get the gps enabled with our verizon devices.

    Anyway, I hope it works out for all of us.
    10-03-08 01:03 PM
  5. slipknot14469's Avatar
    whats the difference between standalone gps vs agps?
    10-03-08 01:04 PM
  6. Branta's Avatar
    Yes, actually, that is precisely my goal (i.e., to eliminate the possibility of geographically locating any call, 911 or otherwise, from the device).
    Your goal is not achievable with any cellular device. As soon as you power up it communicates with the nearest cell towers to register on the network. This is always recorded by the cellular operator so they know pretty much where your device is at any moment. You don't even need to make a call for this to happen. However, location data is generally not disclosed except on a court order and for 911 purposes. If this is not acceptable to you my advice is to turn off and discard or destroy all cellular devices if you want to avoid any possibility of being located.

    The only reasons to 'eliminate the possibility' of location would be military use, or in connection with serious criminal or terrorist activity. (The cops are not going to trace a cellphone for unpaid speeding tickets) The military have better untraceable equipment than cellphones, so that leaves fairly obvious conclusions about your motivation.
    10-03-08 01:14 PM
  7. StrictlyTopSecret's Avatar
    ...Your goal is not achievable with any cellular device. ...The only reasons to 'eliminate the possibility' of location would be military use, or in connection with serious criminal or terrorist activity. ...so that leaves fairly obvious conclusions about your motivation.
    Thank you for your input.

    You are certainly entitled to your opinion.

    ~STS~
    10-03-08 01:28 PM
  8. Didimus's Avatar
    whats the difference between standalone gps vs agps?
    Standalone GPS retrieves data on your location based on satellite signals. aGPS uses this in conjunction with cell tower data to more accurately and more quickly determine your location.

    And I should note that if you do not have GPS enabled then your location is not triangulated. From Google:
    Mobile towers are placed by operators throughout an area to provide coverage for their users. Each of these towers has its own individual coverage area, usually split into three non-overlapping sections known as "cells." These cells come with identification numbers, but no location information. Google takes geo-contextual information [from anonymous GPS-readings, etc] and associates this information with the cell at that location to develop a database of cell locations. Based on this information, Google uses various algorithms to approximate your location relative to the cells nearest you. The accuracy of this information depends on how big an individual cell is. Thus, areas with a denser concentration of mobile towers allow for a more accurate My Location reading. Additionally, as our database of cell locations continues to improve, so too does the accuracy and coverage of the My Location feature.
    Real triangulation would give you a much more accurate location other than within some 1700 meter radius sphere.
    10-03-08 01:28 PM
  9. stratman103's Avatar
    And I should note that if you do not have GPS enabled then your location is not triangulated.
    Yep, you don't even need a GPS enabled phone for that to happen. We found a guy whose plane went down based upon the cell tower his phone was pinging. Just the hit from a single tower got us within a 1 mile radius of the wreckage location. (It was a HEAVILY wooded area in northern Maryland and we couldn't find him; the crash disabled the aircraft's ELT.) Just like in the big planes, it's against FAA regs to have your cell on, but I don't care... I always leave mine on after that (in the little ones mind you, not the big boys.)
    10-03-08 01:57 PM
  10. X_PAIN's Avatar
    The only reasons to 'eliminate the possibility' of location would be military use, or in connection with serious criminal or terrorist activity. (The cops are not going to trace a cellphone for unpaid speeding tickets) The military have better untraceable equipment than cellphones, so that leaves fairly obvious conclusions about your motivation.
    exactly what i've been saying hahaha. no really STS im not calling you al qaida or anything but you make yourself seem verrrrrrry fishy. and responses like "you're entitled to your opinion" make you seem even more so.
    10-03-08 02:32 PM
  11. tech42er's Avatar
    Is it the case, then, that the GPS functionality is still there (regardless of whether or not one chooses to purchase VZNav)? In other words, were I to purchase a Storm, use it on a Verizon network without VZNav, would it still be possible to generally determine (say within several miles) the physical location from which I placed a call?

    Can an end user purchase a Storm which is NOT equipped with the GPS function at all?
    Short answer: No. Long answer: GPS doesn't matter if it's a cell phone. Any cell phone can be pinpointed to within a few hundred meters by triangulating the cell signal. So any phone you get will be trackable. Care to tell us why you need to remain undetected?
    10-03-08 03:12 PM
  12. StrictlyTopSecret's Avatar
    Short answer: No. Long answer: GPS doesn't matter if it's a cell phone. Any cell phone can be pinpointed to within a few hundred meters by triangulating the cell signal. So any phone you get will be trackable. Care to tell us why you need to remain undetected?
    Good point. Thank you, tech42er.

    I take Constitutional freedoms (of all flavors) very, very seriously. Any infringement on those freedoms, in my opinion, is a slippery slope. A very slippery slope, indeed. For those reasons, any legal requirement mandating a breech of personal privacy (e.g., requiring every law-abiding citizen using a privately purchased communications device to continuously transmit geographical location) is unacceptable.

    ~STS~
    Last edited by StrictlyTopSecret; 10-03-08 at 03:23 PM.
    10-03-08 03:20 PM
  13. paul.r's Avatar
    But if those privately purchased devices want to work on a federally regulated airwave, they must comply with federal regulations on the industry.
    10-03-08 03:34 PM
  14. jenaywins's Avatar
    But if those privately purchased devices want to work on a federally regulated airwave, they must comply with federal regulations on the industry.
    Agreed.

    Now, I'm not agreeing at ALL whatsoever with any posts affiliating STS with any sort of criminal activities - joking or not. But, I will say that I don't understand the absolute reluctance to have any GPS on a device at all whatsoever. This is not an infringement on rights or privacy or freedom or anything of that nature. Again, GPS on any cellular device is mainly required due to the necessary location of people during an emergency situation. This, to me, is not an infringement.
    10-03-08 03:41 PM
  15. editguy's Avatar
    Agreed.

    Now, I'm not agreeing at ALL whatsoever with any posts affiliating STS with any sort of criminal activities - joking or not. But, I will say that I don't understand the absolute reluctance to have any GPS on a device at all whatsoever. This is not an infringement on rights or privacy or freedom or anything of that nature. Again, GPS on any cellular device is mainly required due to the necessary location of people during an emergency situation. This, to me, is not an infringement.
    I agree and additionally no one is required to own a cell phone. It's like anything you involve yourself in voluntarily-if you don't like the rules, don't join!
    10-03-08 03:59 PM
  16. Branta's Avatar
    Good point. Thank you, tech42er.

    I take Constitutional freedoms (of all flavors) very, very seriously. Any infringement on those freedoms, in my opinion, is a slippery slope. A very slippery slope, indeed. For those reasons, any legal requirement mandating a breech of personal privacy (e.g., requiring every law-abiding citizen using a privately purchased communications device to continuously transmit geographical location) is unacceptable.

    ~STS~
    Ahh... That raises an interesting point. All active cellular devices are tracked by the network because the technology needs the information to keep the phone connected. The geographic location comes as a side effect because each tower you connect to has a fixed location. To clarify, the network does the tracking, the mobile device is passive and does NOT transmit any kind of *location* information but it does maintain a regular contact to the tower using the control channel. Its not legislation, its the practicality of the service, and in real terms it is extremely unlikely that 99.999% of the data will ever be extracted into device coordinates. The huge majority of the tiny proportion which does get extracted will be used to auto-route 911 calls to the correct response center, and secrecy of location is hardly an issue because within a few seconds the caller will TELL them where assistance is needed. The only people this embarrasses or threatens are the 911 hoaxers who might get an unwelcome knock on the door.

    On the subject of explicitly transmitting location data, particularly GPS data from BlackBerry, I would expect this to be generated by an 'application' at OS level and go onto a User (data) channel so it would be BILLABLE TO USER. That is a whole different ballgame and you are right to object to potential theft of bandwidth.

    It is extremely unlikely that 'covert' tracking would be secretly built into the software for a device like BlackBerry at OS level. Yes its possible, but the fallout would destroy any company that tried it and got detected - and they would be exposed the first time anyone tried to use the data. It would still have to run in the application layer and use the User channels because the protocols for the RF side don't have an allocation for it on the control channel. If there was ever such an allocation it would require the publication of a new protocol so you would be able to see the details anyway.
    10-03-08 04:58 PM
  17. Branta's Avatar
    GPS on any cellular device is mainly required due to the necessary location of people during an emergency situation. This, to me, is not an infringement.
    That's the whole point here. GPS is not required on a cellular device. Look at the RIM range available today, GPS is available on about 5 of the 20 or so different models. The rest don't have GPS and it is legal to sell, supply, and set to work any of these models.

    GPS has a different purpose in the current models - it's a feature packed urinating contest between the manufacturers, and between gadget crazed owners. On the side are content providers who see a potential market for added value services based on location.

    As a User I see no major advantage for GPS, I've been driving for long enough to be able to read a map and I don't take the scenic route too often even in unfamiliar areas. However I will probably use GPS if its there.
    10-03-08 05:08 PM
  18. tarsij's Avatar
    This is very useful information, and I value it. Thank you for taking the time to help me more fully understand this issue.

    Do you happen to know if it is a violation of federal law for the end user to modify the phone (i.e., disable GPS) or if it is a violation of federal law only for carriers (e.g., Verizon) to sell/activate non GPS/E911 capable devices?

    Appreciatively,
    ~STS~

    I do not know if it is ok for the end user to modify the phone, however I would highly recommend against it if only for the emergency aspect of it. I've had at least 10 times in the last 6 months or so that I've tracked a phone down on a person that needed help and was unable to speak or move. You never know when you will be in that position and it could very well end up saving your life.
    10-03-08 05:11 PM
  19. asnyder's Avatar
    Here's my take:

    STS is married, but met someone of "interest". Mr./Mrs. STS found out and tried to secretly install Chaperone on the current STS device. STS being very astute caught on. Now searching for non-gps device in order to have cake and eat it too (figuratively speaking of course).

    True story
    10-03-08 06:03 PM
  20. hal1's Avatar
    I have no law education other than my business law classes. But I would guess that since it is NOT required by law that you own a cell phone, you voluntarily accept the stipulations that go along with having one. It may be different if the government said "here is your federally issued cell phone that you must keep on you at all time, and by the way it has a tracking system.

    In other words, you voluntarily get a cell phone, and here are the rules...

    This post is not an endorsement nor a condemnation of the policy
    10-04-08 12:19 AM
  21. kwsmithphoto's Avatar
    I researched this a while ago, so my info might be dated, but this is my understanding of the broader questions being asked:

    Every GPS-enabled phone has a feature to disable GPS transmission, except for 911 calls. The exception to that are phones with "Chaperone" software installed, which is designed to be used by parents to track their children. If the software is enabled, constant GPS broadcast cannot be disabled unless you know the password to disable the software.

    As others have mentioned though, there is some software that you can install such as Google Maps which does it's best to triangulate your position based on the constant conversations all phones have with the cell tower network. It is not very accurate though.

    However, the carrier can pinpoint your location with MUCH greater accuracy because they have much more information than user-installed software does. As one example, most if not all cell sites have directional antenna arrays that have a pretty good idea which "heading" you are at in relation to a single tower. Combined with signal strength, which their towers are also aware of, they can and do track your location - that's simply how a cell phone functions.

    In terms of "government" getting access to that data, it's really not that difficult. Technically, a search warrant is required but in most jurisdictions that can be done in a matter of minutes (or after the fact via FISA if the Feds want to find you), at which point the carrier is required to promptly give authorities the most accurate data they have about your location, past or present. Their location info isn't as accurate as it would be if you enabled constant GPS location data on your phone, but it's still pretty accurate.

    Anyway, my answer to the original question is:

    You would need a third-party software hack to -completely- disable the GPS function. Conversely, you would need the same thing to bypass Verizon's GPS block. I am not aware of any that will do either of these things.

    But if such software did exist, I don't believe you would be breaking any criminal laws by using it. You would, however, be in violation of the agreement you signed when you bought the phone, but that would be a civil violation that only the carrier could enforce.

    Because of the fact that your location can be found with or without GPS, what most intelligent criminal organizations do is buy cheap, pre-paid phones from a convenience store and destroy or dispose of them on a regular basis. In order for authorities to find you they need to know your cell phone number, but if that number changes every day or or even every hour, it makes it considerably more difficult.

    Even with that practice though, since the vendor has to record your identity (check your license etc.), has cameras in the store, carrier records etc., "footprints" are left behind that can be used as a forensic measure in a criminal investigation after the fact, even though the phone was immediately destroyed after any crime was committed. So the practice does provide a good deal of privacy but isn't entirely bulletproof.

    But, assuming you are an ordinary citizen with an ordinary cell phone and a contract with a carrier, you are being tracked in realtime by the carrier, records are kept of your location past or present, and can be provided to authorities if they want them. With or without GPS.

    So, the only way to have complete autonomy about your location at any given time, past or present, is to turn off your phone, or leave it powered on somewhere else (which can also serve as a flimsy but admissible alibi, FWIW).

    None of which has anything to do with the Storm, or Verizon, or GPS, it's just the nature of the system. This is how they located OJ Simpson 14 years ago, btw.

    One more little nugget just to make you even more paranoid. The FBI is constantly developing software that can be installed over the air or by obtaining physical access to many or most popular cell phones, which keep the phone on, connected, and transmitting audio without your knowledge, even if you think you've turned it off.
    10-04-08 04:34 AM
  22. StrictlyTopSecret's Avatar
    Thank you for that helpful and detailed information, Kwsmithphoto.

    Any power/right not expressly given the government in the Constitution (and its amendments) remains with the people. One of these fundamental rights involves unfettered communication among citizens.

    The long, slow erosion of rights has become a very serious problem among an increasingly complacent (and voluntarily naive) public. Place an unsuspecting frog in a few inches of tepid water on the stove, slowly turn up the heat, and he will allow himself (though he could easily jump out) to be boiled to death.

    This is precisely what has happened when citizens voice no (or too little) objection to federal law making exercising your rights a crime. Requiring the availability of location data from law-abiding citizens (or businesses) is, indeed, a blatant violation of your right to freely travel and freely communicate with no governmental oversight whatsoever (including that ostensibly for "emergencies").

    Surely if property tax paying citizens were legally required to install video monitoring devices in their homes which continuously made data available to the government (only in cases of "emergency", of course) there would be a public outcry. Where is the outcry when the parallel legal requirement is being unjustly wielded on wireless communication devices?

    Allowing consumers the choice to use such a service (or not) is reasonable. Punishing those (e.g., wireless service providers, wireless device producers, wireless device end users) who choose to opt out, however, should be utterly unacceptable in the USA.

    It is time for purchasers of wireless services to jump out of the proverbial "pot" before any of our remaining rights are boiled to death.

    ~STS~
    Last edited by StrictlyTopSecret; 10-04-08 at 08:18 AM.
    10-04-08 08:02 AM
  23. Didimus's Avatar
    I don't mean to go off topic but I would like to point out again that there is no triangulation going on when you use google maps and your gps is off. It simply knows what tower you are connected to and the approximate range of that tower. If it was triangulation you would know your location much more accurately.

    So, even if you could disable the GPS completely (you could probably take apart the phone and remove the receiver if you knew where it was) then your approximate location is known at any given time anyway when your phone is on and connected to the network (as many have already pointed out).
    10-04-08 06:41 PM
  24. editguy's Avatar

    Surely if property tax paying citizens were legally required to install video monitoring devices in their homes which continuously made data available to the government (only in cases of "emergency", of course) there would be a public outcry. Where is the outcry when the parallel legal requirement is being unjustly wielded on wireless communication devices?

    ~STS~
    But, how would you propose that they disable the ability to track you through your cell phone? The towers and phone necessarily communicate with one another. There's no way to disable that ability without disabling the phone.
    10-04-08 06:55 PM
  25. Branta's Avatar
    @Didimus
    So, even if you could disable the GPS completely (you could probably take apart the phone and remove the receiver if you knew where it was)

    No you can't. AFAIK most of the GPS receivers are on chip with the receiver for voice and data. The first stages are probably shared, the frequencies are close enough and conveniently mid-way between the lower and upper phone bands.

    And as the OP seems to have not understood, E911 does not rely on any special transmissions from the phone to say 'I am here'. Its the towers which say 'I can see you' and periodically call to check the phone is still in range - so the only way to avoid location is to power-off the phone and avoid any use of radio communication.
    10-04-08 07:17 PM
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