How can a phone be tracked?

June 27, 2011

From the website http://www.travelbygps.com/articles/tracking.php:

“Stimulated by the events of 11 September 2001, the demand for enhanced 911 (e911) emergency calling capabilities, pushed forward GPS tracking technology in cell phones. At the end of 2005, all cell phone carriers were required to provide the ability to trace cell phone calls to a location within 100 meters or less.

To comply with FCC requirements, cell phone carriers decided to integrate GPS technology into cell phone handsets, rather than overhaul the tower network. However the GPS in most cell phones are not like those in your handy GPS receiver that you take hiking. Most cell phones do not allow the user direct access to the GPS data, accurate location determination requires the assistance of the wireless network, and the GPS data is transmitted only if a 911 emergency call is made.”

That’s the theory, in any case.  But as we know from recent news stories, in fact

“…both the iPhone and 3G iPads [have been] storing a persistent list of locations and timestamps, and have been doing so since iOS 4′s release. While that’s mysterious and somewhat spooky in and of itself, it gets a bit stranger: the “consolidated.db” file is synced (in plaintext) as part of your iPhone backup, which means that it’s chillin’ on any machine you’ve synced your iPhone with recently. This data can then be taken and mapped to show where you’ve been and where you’ve gone since the last time you cleared everything off your device.”

Moreover, there are other “features” in some cell phones, of which users may or may not be aware, including “Geofencing,” which turns the GPS tracking on when the phone user has entered or exited a predefined region (like a school or office building) or crossed a virtual fence or border; “Speed alerts,” which provides an email or SMS alert when the phone has exceeded a speed limit; and “mobile to mobile tracking,” which may involve special installation of the kind of spy software mentioned in the previous post, or may be native to the phone itself.

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Joseph Campbell’s Stages of the Monomyth: “The Hero’s Journey”

June 27, 2011
The Hero's Journey

Joseph Campbell’s famous stages of the monomyth have been the outline for countless heroic narratives, including Star Wars and the Matrix.


Stories of Detention: Jerry’s Story

June 22, 2011

Jerry’s Story:   This article by Nina Bernstein of the New York Times reports on a green card holding legal resident who spent 3 years in jail awaiting a deportation hearing after a misdemeanor drug offense, because that offense, in combination with an earlier drug arrest, added up to what the government considered an “aggravated felony” that required automatic deportation.  The article’s description of the government’s handling of the case–including considering his earlier minor drug offense a “conviction” even though the case had been dismissed–is positively Kafkaesque.

Many immigrants got caught in this draconian interpretation of the law.  But there is now a potential remedy (if they appear before a sympathetic immigration judge):  in July of 2010 the  Supreme Court determined that  legal residents with minor drug convictions are eligible to have an immigration judge weigh their offenses against other factors in their lives and decide whether to let them stay.  The full story is here:  Bernstein on Supreme Court Ruling


T. Don Hutto Fast Facts

June 22, 2011
  • The T. Don Hutto facility (located in Taylor, TX) was originally a medium security prison.  After being “converted” into an immigration detention center, it held men, women (some pregnant), children, and infants from May 2006 to September 2009. Administered by the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA-“America’s Leader in Partnership Corrections”), the country’s largest for-profit corrections company, the center now holds around 500 adult women, many of whom are seeking asylum.
  • Here’s a link to America’s Family Prison, a 17 minute film about Hutto, made while it was still a “family residential detention center.”
  • In August of 2010 women inmates brought allegations of sexual assault and harassment against an employee of CCA.
  • The average cost of detaining an immigrant is approximately $122 per person/ per day. Alternatives to detention, which generally include a combination of reporting and electronic monitoring, are effective and significantly cheaper, with some programs costing as little as $12 per day. These alternatives to detention still yield an estimated 93% appearance rate before the immigration courts.
  • Every month the CCA gets around $2.8 million in federal tax dollars to run T. Don Hutto.  In 2009, CCA earned $1.67 billion in revenue with a net income of $155 million.  Here’s a link to more info on the money trail.