Pinging cell phones has become a very controversial issue in the past few years. Some people think pinging is an indispensable tool for law enforcement, businesses, and many areas of personal lives. However, other people consider pinging to be an invasion of privacy. So is pinging legal, and if so, how is it done?
How to Legally Ping
Pinging is done automatically, especially whenever a cell phone is turned on. It is the pinging technology that enables cell phones to work, and this makes it legal. However, how the pinged information is attained, whom it is attained by, and how it is utilized determines the legitimacy of the pinging.
Emergency calls to E911 systems automatically transfer the caller’s location, and other information considered necessary for assisting the individual. Law enforcement agents may obtain the pinging records of any cell phone if they get a warrant or subpoena issued first. To obtain a warrant, the agent must prove just or probable cause in a criminal investigation.
Anyone else seeking pinging records must have prior consent from the owner of the cell phone. The cell phone owner must give the service provider consent to release information to those specific individuals.
Benefits of Pinging
Pinging has assisted law enforcement agencies in capturing drug traffickers, murders, and other criminals. It has assisted with search and rescue operations, and medical emergencies. With newer models of cell phones having GPS chips and microphone capabilities installed, police can locate a person quickly. They are also able to listen in on everything going on around the cell phone, even when it is turned off.
Pinging cell phone applications also make it possible for family, friends, or co-workers to keep track of each other more easily. For instance, Sprint Nextel offers its customers “loopt” service, which sends an alert when a contact is near. Verizon offers a Chaperone service for parents that notifies the parents if the child leaves a certain area. In the United Kingdom, a program called KidsOK was set up using pinging cell phones. This program allows parents to keep tabs on their children by pinging. Within one minute of locating the child’s phone, a text description and map of the child’s location is sent to the parents. For this program, both the parent and child have to continually give consent to the tracking service.
Abelson, Harold, Ken Ledeen, and Harry R. Lewis. Blown to bits: your life, liberty, and happiness after the digital explosion. Upper Saddle River, NJ : Addison-Wesley, 2008. Print.
“Wireless 911 Services.” Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Home Page. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Dec. 2010. http://www.fcc.gov/cgb/consumerfacts/wireless911srvc.html.
“Loopt Service.” Loopt Service. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Dec. 2010. http://www.loopt.com/.
Perton, Marc. “KidsOK – yet another cellphone-based kid-tracker — Engadget.” Engadget. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Dec. 2010. http://www.engadget.com/2005/07/19/kidsok-yet-another-cellphone-based-kid-tracker/.