Sunday, September 30, 2007

Cell phone tracking

For some reason, the AP can't get right how Tanya Rider's cell phone contributed to finding her. AP stories repeat variations of this:

Authorities found the Maple Valley woman after detecting the general location of her cell phone Thursday morning...
The authorities did not detect anything. They asked the cell phone company what cell her phone had been in last, and the company searched its records. I mean, really, otherwise you'd have to explain why her battery could last eight days. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer gets it right:
Tom Rider, who lives with his wife in Maple Valley, said Friday that a court order for records from his wife's cell phone provider to determine where she last used her phone could have pointed rescuers to her last Saturday...
Well, mostly right - used is a little misleading. Had turned on would be more accurate.

The technology had a good outcome in this case (so far), but don't miss the upshot: Anyone who has sufficient pull with cell providers can find out your approximate location for as long as you have your phone on. Who really needs a GPS ankle bracelet?

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