Communion Of Dreams


“Is that a tracking device in your pocket, or are you just happy to let the Feds know where you are?”

I’m always surprised when people *don’t* know the limitations and liabilities of the technology they take for granted. Take for example this Washington Post story about cellphone tracking:

Cellphone Tracking Powers on Request
Secret Warrants Granted Without Probable Cause

Federal officials are routinely asking courts to order cellphone companies to furnish real-time tracking data so they can pinpoint the whereabouts of drug traffickers, fugitives and other criminal suspects, according to judges and industry lawyers.

In some cases, judges have granted the requests without requiring the government to demonstrate that there is probable cause to believe that a crime is taking place or that the inquiry will yield evidence of a crime. Privacy advocates fear such a practice may expose average Americans to a new level of government scrutiny of their daily lives.

Gee, ya think?

See, here’s the thing: cell phones have to maintain steady contact with cell towers in their area, in order for you to have reliable service. Also, the Enhanced 911 system needs to be able to figure out where you are if you call, so the technology is built-in. And many phones simply have a GPS system. Your mobile phone service provider can basically track your movements at all times, so long as you have your phone with you. There have even been cases where people have been disciplined/dismissed from jobs based on cell movement monitoring by their employer. And Google “cell phone monitoring” (or any variant) and not only will you get a lot of hits, but off to the right are a bunch of sponsored links from companies offering to help you monitor the movement of someone based on their cell phone. Charming, eh? Do you seriously think that the government wouldn’t take advantage of this?

Oh, and one more item to keep in mind: remember, your phone doesn’t even have to be ‘on’ for this to work. So long as the battery is plugged in, it is ‘live’. And if they want to, your cell phone company (at the behest of the authorities?) can turn on the mic to listen in on your conversations even when you aren’t using the phone.

Yeah, you’re carrying a tracking device in your pocket. And a ‘bug’. Welcome to the future.

Actually, this sort of thing is where I see the tech of the personal expert system AI like Seth developing for Communion of Dreams. Such an entity could function as a screen for you – keeping track of your movements at all times, providing the necessary safety & convenience, but being a ‘black box’ to any outside agency. Almost like how a good butler or house-elf would serve someone but jealously guard their privacy/secrets. And in the ongoing battle between prying eyes and effective counter-measures, such systems would be pushed to develop greater capabilities and eventually intelligence.

Jim Downey

(Slightly different version of this cross-posted to UTI.)


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Got a note from a friend about this post. Their comments in italic, my response after.

I did not know that stuff about my cell phone.

Most people don’t. And it’s not like the phone companies like to talk about it. But it is basic to the technology.

I will need to begin storing it with the battery out. Lovely…

Ah, but see, that’s where you should be even more paranoid: they design the memory so that it requires the battery to be plugged in to retain your phone numbers and programming. They don’t have to be designed this way – plenty of different types of flash technology will retain memory without battery power. But this way, it is much too much of a hassle to unplug your battery . . . thereby insuring that people will always be able to be tracked (and bugged). The trade-off of convenience for monitoring is fairly diabolical, for all that it is subtle.

Smile – you’re on Candid Camera!

Jim D.

Comment by Communion of Dreams




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