Privacy Verses Safety: Should Cell Phones be used as a GPS Tracking Device?
One of the most pressing issues today is one that pushes the boundary between safety and the invasion of personal privacy. Is the use of a cell phone system as a GPS tracking device really the best way to keep people safe? Or is this tracker data use actually an infringement upon personal rights and privacy?
A Cell Phone that Act as a GPS Tracking Device
Until recently, there were few new products for tracking the location of people with GPS technology; this view may have been because there was not much of a real market for such technology. It used to be that if you wanted to use GPS tracking device technology to call for emergency purposes, expensive equipment was required. However, after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the demand for emergency tracking services on cell phones has increased. Cell phone companies have struggled to meet the demands of the public and meet the regulations of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
The FCC instated the requirement at the end of 2005 that all cell phone companies be able to trace cell phone calls to a location, if it were 100 meters or less away from the receiver of the call. In order to meet these and other FCC requirements, cell phone companies have begun to include GPS tracking technology into handsets for cell phones. However, the GPS tracking technology that is used in cell phones differs from the technology that is used in other GPS receivers, such as the tracking devices used by hikers. Cell phones, for the most part, do not allow the user to directly access the GPS tracking data, and in order to obtain an accurate location, the cell phone network must be contacted. Also, only when a 911 emergency call is made is the GPS tracking data transmitted.
Which Wireless Networks Support GPS Tracking Technology?
There are several wireless companies that offer GPS tracking technology as a part of their services. Cingular, T-Mobile, and AT&T are well known for having the largest coverage. Other companies, such as Nextel and Sprint, place more emphasis on the quality of the data.
Back to the Question at Hand
In light of this information, is using GPS tracking in cell phones working against the right to privacy? Under the current regulations by the Federal Communications Committee, GPS tracking using cell phones is limited to emergency situations. The only way that someone can be tracked by his cell phone is if the person doing the tracking has the right service, network, and cell phone as well. There are consequences for using GPS technology for tracking someone without permission. Overall, the laws and limits that are in place allow the use of a GPS tracking device in cell phones to be a matter of safety, and not one of privacy.
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