How a “location API” allows cops to figure out where we all are in real-time

That’s the provocative title of a piece that was on ARS Technica over the weekend – and they include a really novel link. You can try to see if your phone, or a handful of other things, can be located. Think of it as a way to test your privacy measures, your VPN or browser security.

The digital privacy world was rocked late Thursday evening when The New York Times reported on Securus, a prison telecom company that has a service enabling law enforcement officers to locate most American cell phones within seconds. The company does this via a basic Web interface leveraging a location API—creating a way to effectively access a massive real-time database of cell-site records.


This entry was posted in To Protect and Serve. Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to How a “location API” allows cops to figure out where we all are in real-time

  1. Winston Smith says:

    Cell phones be de deb-il!

  2. Cops have had this ability for well over a decade, and it is a form of recreation for the ones who enjoy harassing people they don’t like for whatever reason. You could pull the battery out of a flip phone and go invisible, but the new phones are problematic if you need to hide.

  3. rick says:

    I’ve known about this for a number of years since I called 911 to report a really drunk driver who pulled into the gas station I was at and nearly ran into me, my truck, and two other cars. The cops immediately asked if I was at so and so gas station.

    BTW: That was the last time I called 911 and I plan to keep it that way.

  4. BiblicalViolence says:

    Faraday bag.

    • Eric says:

      Some phones drain the battery trying to connect when placed in these. Turn them off before tucking them in!

  5. stine says:

    Even better, they’ve been hacked twice since that original story was published.

    Also, rick, that’s the whole point of e911, if you call them, they can find you based on the assumption that if you call them, you’d like them to show up exactly where you are, not somewhere within 5 miles of where you are. I have a problem with them using this location info for any other purpose, And Securus has been getting its location information from a MARKETING company, the one that has contracts with all of the cell phone providers (att, verizon, tmobile, sprint, etc)

  6. bogsidebunny says:

    I guess I’m just gonna have to turn in my 1968 Black rotary desk phone now and jump on the technological bandwagon.

  7. Marach says:

    Amusing. My phone must have a doppelganger. While it is here with me, it is reported 55 miles north of me.

  8. D S Craft says:

    Meh. Don’t own a mobile phone. Don’t need an electronic leash.

  9. Chish says:

    Here’s a site I ran across while researching something:

  10. p kerit says:

    I went to the website, filled it in, hit enter. Nothing

  11. Djamer says:

    Sounds like a trick to get people to input their phone numbers. . . Sort of like that 23 and Me shit.

    • crazyeighter says:

      Also makes me wonder if they don’t start the search from the location of your IP Address and find the phone five feet away.

  12. singlestack says:

    Just about any metal box will work as a Faraday cage as long as the lid overlaps a lip on the box and there are no holes in it. An ammo box is one of the best Faraday cages you can get.
    I made a slipcase out of a box some parts came in and some heavy duty aluminum foil. I also keep a Jobox in the bed of my truck. It would make a fine Faraday cage by itself, but if you put your naked phone in it and open the lid it will connect.
    I just put my phone in the slipcase and toss it in the Jobox. If I need to get something out of the box the phone is still isolated.

  13. Gryphon says:

    That, and all of the newer ‘smartphones’ can be Hacked (NOT just by the government) to have the Microphone turned on as an Eavesdropping App.

    • Larry says:

      And GPS turned on, all while pretending to be off. The only way you’d notice is, “Wow, the battery’s running down even when the damned thing is turned off! Piece of shit Chinese batteries!”

  14. Ellinore says:

    My phone says I’m in San Diego. I’m 120 miles from there.

If your comment 'disappears', don't trip - it went to my trash folder and I will restore it when I moderate.