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How Cell Phones Reveal Your Location

As is shown in many spy shows, a cell phone’s location can be tracked when calls are made, or any kind of data is sent to or from the phone. This is done using the cell tower that your phone is connecting to.

To send and receive signals, the cell tower uses radio signals. Radio is very low on the electromagnetic spectrum, and can easily pass through solid objects, making it ideal for this purpose, as we live in a time where we are constantly inside of something, or there is something between you and the cell tower. This is, of course, completely harmless to the human body, just like visible light.

Now instead of just blasting radio everywhere, the signals are in different frequencies. Just like different colors for visible light, the radio spectrum has different frequencies it can be sent as. So when two calls are made at the same time, they are each assigned a different radio frequency so their information, or data packets, can be sent to the correct location, and calls aren’t sent randomly or lost.

The assignment of these frequencies depends on how far away you are from the tower and changes as you move, either getting further away or closer. Once you have how far away the cell signal is, you can narrow down the cell phone to a circular radius from the cell tower. For example, 2 miles away in any direction from that cell tower.

If you have ever seen a cell tower, you may have noticed little small items on the top of the tower. These emit radio signals in a specific direction. It isn’t one big emitter that sends radio signals in every direction, but a series of smaller emitters sending a far denser signal in a single conical direction. This allows for a wider array of frequencies to be assigned. You can have the entire spectrum of radio sent out in a single cone, then the data packet assigned a number based on the transmitter/receiver.

Now you narrowed down the large circle to a single part of the arc. Now you can compare that arc to a map, and determine where the most likely place that phone is located. If it is moving 70 mph, and the arc contains a highway, then the cell phone is likely inside of a moving vehicle. If it is standing still in a large field or wasteland, and there is a single shelter or residence that the arc crosses, the cell phone is likely in that location.

Don’t like the idea of being tracked online? Stay up to date on the latest security tips and tricks at the ZookaWare Facebook page.

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