FYI: 911 Operators can turn your GPS on (with proper permission) and so can police.

Discussion in 'iPhone' started by iphones4evry1, Jul 31, 2009.

  1. iphones4evry1 macrumors 65816


    Nov 26, 2008
    California, USA
    I was watching the news two nights ago (I just got around to posting this thread), and they told a story of a girl that had been in an accident and became unconscious. With the proper authorization from police authorities, they turned on her iPhone's GPS for the police and located her. The girl was barely clinging to life when they found her. She is currently in stable condition in the hospital. Lesson to be learned for iPhone users: in extreme situations, AT&T does have the ability to turn your "location services" from "off" to "on." I'm assuming they would need a court order and so on and so forth. In this situation, it was perfectly understandable that a person was dying and they needed to find the person due to a life or death situation. I'm not sure if the ACLU is aware of this incident, but it is never the less interesting.

    Unless you are running from the police (which 99.99% of us will never be doing), you shouldn't really care. In fact, you should be glad that emergency rescue workers have this ability so that they can locate you if you are in need. I can't really think of a situation in which "big brother" would want to follow YOU. Well, maybe if you sign an AT&T contract and then stop paying your bill...AT&T might :eek::eek::eek: But that wouldn't be big brother since AT&T is a private company and not the government.

    Update: Although I have not been able to find a news story yet to link to, I did find a news story that says 911 operators currently [legally] use cell phone tower triangulation to locate every call made from a cell phone to within 300 feet. "The second phase of the Enhanced 911 rules implemented provides 911 call takers with the cell phone number, the nearest cell phone tower, the caller’s GPS coordinates and an approximate address for the caller." -So apparently, in some states, if your GPS is turned on, then the 911 operators will access it. "'People are moving more to wireless cell phones than house lines,” he said. "It’s crucial to know where they’re coming from, like we can with house lines.' The system can make a difference in situations where seconds count, said Hidalgo County Sheriff Lupe Treviño." If you think about the fact that currently you allow third-party Apps to access your GPS, then it shouldn't be a shock that 911 Operators can. If you are letting the computer programmers at Zillow and Google know where you are, then it shouldn't be a shock for 911 operators to know where you are. Has it occurred to you that an employee at Zillow or Google could know where you are in real time when you use the GPS in the App?
  2. 1rottenapple macrumors 68000

    Apr 21, 2004
    I don't mind, I wish there was a way to register your iPhone or gps enabled phone to 911 in order to auhorize theM to use location services. I have nothing to hide, and I were I'd use a prepaid cell or something.
  3. jmmo20 macrumors 65816

    Jun 15, 2006
    Real GPS? No.
    Cell tower triangulation, of course.

    the GPS term is widely misused when they really mean cell triangulation, even in movies and tv shows (this phrase is common "turn on the GPS chip on his phone" .. what-ever!!)

  4. gilkisson macrumors 65816


    QFT. Also consider those in rural areas, where there may be but one tower in range of the victim's phone. Triangulation implies (and requires) 3 or more source points (towers) -- with only one, all you can know is "they went thataway".
  5. bruinsrme macrumors 603


    Oct 26, 2008
    That is one thing I really liked about verizon they have the e911 locator that I was able to turn on, which it always was.
  6. Interstella5555 macrumors 603


    Jun 30, 2008
    I'm surprised people don't know this...they can do the same thing with the gps in your car.
  7. BNZ1 macrumors regular

    Nov 11, 2008
    This is not just on an iPhone. All mobile phones can have their location triangulated by the emergency services.
  8. Unspoken Demise macrumors 68040

    Unspoken Demise

    Apr 16, 2009
  9. benfica88 macrumors regular

    Nov 21, 2008
  10. Unspoken Demise macrumors 68040

    Unspoken Demise

    Apr 16, 2009
    Oh God, is there still time?!!?!??!!
  11. jmmo20 macrumors 65816

    Jun 15, 2006

    no they don't.

    most GPS units are simple receivers.. they don't have any hardware able to emit anything. IF nothing is emitted, how can they find you?
  12. gilkisson macrumors 65816


    That's what they want you to think.... it's actually a vast conspiracy. They know when you are sleeping, they know when you awake, they know...:D

    That's more fun than the calm reason and logic you were offering. Care to bet which version will be believed?
  13. alent1234 macrumors 603

    Jun 19, 2009
    this is all part of the E911 law that was passed in the late 1990's. if you call 911 from your cell, they know where you are.

    and if you do something illegal all the towers you hit will leave a trail in the security logs of the carrier. and they know how far away from the tower you are by the signal strength

    few years ago a woman hired someone to kill her ex during a messy divorce. they're both in jail now. first the cops matched the print on the bullet to an arrest record from the 1990's where he jumped the subway without paying. then he lied and said he wasn't in NYC that day. cell phone records placed him close to the crime scene right about the time of the murder and they had a record of every cell phone tower he hit on the drive back to Georgia.
  14. CheesePuff macrumors 6502

    Sep 3, 2008
    Southwest Florida, USA
    That's a misconception... just because you call 911 doesn't mean they know where you are. You need to be on a Phase 2 connection and if you simply call and hang up it will show a very large possible area of where you are. Only when you stay on the line and the 911 operator rebids your location after about 20 seconds it will show generally within a few feet of where you are.
  15. scaredpoet macrumors 604


    Apr 6, 2007
    Wow, LOTS of misinformation on this thread.

    Only if your car has an assist device like OnStar or some equivalent. A run of the mill GPS receiver or navigation system alone does not transmit, and there will not "give away" you location.

    If you're concerned, the best thing to do is read the manual. If there's mention of an ability to transmit (and they will disclose this if it does have that capability), then the device is capable or reporting back. If it's a GPS receiver only, then no.

    Actually, it depends on the phone.

    Short answer: the iPhone DOES use GPS for E-911 location, and by extension, whenever law enforcement requests (legitimately, we hope) a location track. So do most Cingular/AT&T-branded phones made after 2006.

    The long answer:

    Currently, all current-model CDMA cell phones in the use must have have a GPS receiver chipset and must be able to use it to transmit a location fix to responders in an emergency. These handsets may (and often do) use cell towers - which are fixed and whose GPS coordinates are known at all times - to more rapidly get a fix on the phone's position than straight GPS alone. This is known as A-GPS. And right now, the FCC mandates that at least 95% of all phones activated on a CDMA network have this ability. In a nutshell, the network is not triangulating you by cell tower signal strength, but rather the handset itself must find out where it is and squawk that info to the network on request.

    The drawback to this approach is that CDMA cellular carriers will no longer activate certain older model phones that don't have the A-GPS chispet. So even though technically these handsets work fine, you are barred from using them because they don't meet the FCC-mandated requirements.

    For GSM phones, the situation is different. GSM carriers have to address unlocked, unbranded or international GSM handsets that aren't required to have GPS chispets, and the carriers didn't want to have to push people to upgrade their existing GSM phones right away. So, they chose a scheme where the network does triangulate the location of a handset (this is known as Time Difference of Arrival, or TDOA).

    However, if a GSM handset also has an A-GPS chipset installed, then that capability is supposed to be used as well, when possible. In fact, AT&T is using both TDOA and A-GPS. A-GPS is being used an all handsets sold by AT&T after 2006. TDOA is being used whenever a-GPS doesn't exist on a handset.
  16. 1rottenapple macrumors 68000

    Apr 21, 2004
    so this effects iphone as well then right cause that'd be good t0 know.
  17. fleshman03 macrumors 68000


    May 27, 2008
    Sioux City, IA
    There's actually a pretty good book out there on this topic. I'd suggest anyone interested on this topic, check it out.

    There is a free PDF download of the book here.

    Take a look...
  18. uberamd macrumors 68030


    May 26, 2009
    So its like in the movies when the guy on the run from the FBI calls and watches the clock closely, hanging up just 1 second before they can lock on the tracy while the computer beeps and hums in the background (because all movie computers beep every time the user does anything with it)? Sweet.
  19. SFStateStudent macrumors 604


    Aug 28, 2007
    San Francisco California, USA
    I can remember in the 1990's when I would call 9-1-1 on my Motorola cell phone, the 9-1-1 dispatcher would ask my location or if I was on my cell phone. Apparently, technology has just gotten better over the years....:eek::eek::eek:
  20. TMar macrumors 68000


    Jul 20, 2008
    Location service doesn't know your location. It only gets your location when an application is actively requesting it. If not then I would not have to wait for a GPS signal in GPS apps.
  21. alent1234 macrumors 603

    Jun 19, 2009
    calling 911 is different and will automatically give your location to the operators
  22. old-wiz macrumors G3

    Mar 26, 2008
    West Suburban Boston Ma
    Only if the GPS is part of a system with a radio, like OnStar. A stand alone GPS like the Garmin Nuvi, will not communicate to anything by itself; it can onlly receive data from the Sats. There is no way a stand alone GPS can be activated remotely.

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