Freedom in Germany: Part II - Mobile phone-based surveillance


Mobile phone services can easily find the position of an active (stand-by or transmitting) mobile phone by triangulation.
The accuracy can be as good as few meters, depending on the density of the mobile phone network in the area. It's enough to track a person's movement as long as the person has a mobile phone in stand-by mode.

It's not very easy to get such tracking info as it still requires a message of consent by the tracked person's mobile phone.
I have seen a system with supposedly anonymous tracking - one proposal was for tracking all mobile phones to detect traffic jams. Other tracking purposes like child surveillance, location of stolen mobile phones, checking the partner's faithfulness and more.

This is a technical and cheap possibility for surveillance of citizens that didn't exist about 20 years ago. We lived well then - were even just in the process of getting rid of a dictatorship in East Germany. I don't think we missed the possibility of tracking others by electronic means, and I'm quite sure that - unaccustomed to the mobile phone technology - we would have agreed that such a possibility would be quite unacceptable and nightmarish.
Germans were burning the Stasi's surveillance archives in order to get rid of a surveillance-crazy state in 1989.

Malware can even be used to turn a mobile phone into a bugging device, Today's mobile phones are usually software-defined. Automatic software updates and download of applications could be used to infiltrate the phone and change its software for covert listening.

We have already the hardware and software for the surveillance of millions of citizens.
We would need to deactivate (probably remove the battery) or discard our mobile phones in order to be 100% sure that nobody is tracking us.
That doesn't kill us or turn the country into a nightmare. It's just a mosaic piece of a grand picture, and I hope we'll never have the picture completed.

Sven Ortmann

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