How mobile phone tracking really works

Were you one of the 7.5 million people watching the riveting conclusion of Line of Duty on Sunday night? Across the nation viewers were on the edge of their seats waiting to see whether Ros Huntley could outmanoeuvre Steve, Kate and AC12 one more time.

Mobile phones played a big part in the case. From “burner” phones to mobile phone tracking to check suspects’ movements. It’s a reminder of how big a feature mobile phone tracking is in police work. But how does it work, and what might be the side effects?

The two elements are the phone handset itself and the mobile network.

Phones check in with the network all the time so there’s a connection even when the phone isn’t actually in use. This connection is to check signal strength and maintain a link to the network, check in for any data that needs to be downloaded like emails or updates, all the background work your phone is doing.

The network itself is powered by mobile phone masts, sometimes called cell towers. Your phone doesn’t just use one mast, it uses several. These overlapping mini-networks allow your phone to move around areas without dropping signal and to balance the load on the masts.

When your phone makes contact with the network on one of these regular check-ins it shows which mast it is using and the strength of the connection to each - which indicates how far from the mast it is. That allows “triangulation” where if there is a connection to three or more masts that information along with the distance from each mast can be used by software to pinpoint the location of the phone.

You might think that is just a problem for people up to no good. Some people have an issue with it over privacy. But there’s also a physical effect.

The phone contacts the network on a two-way radio signal. The signal is powered by the phone’s electromagnetic field, which is a form of electromagnetic radiation.

New research is coming out all the time that shows the radiation from mobile phones could be responsible for tumours, cancer and male infertility. That electromagnetic field is around the phone all the time… and the phone is usually around you. The radiation passes through the body and harms cells and DNA which in turn can lead to tumours and cancer developing.

For men it can affect the DNA of developing sperm and make them more likely to die or be weaker. This leads to a drop in sperm count and difficulty conceiving. It’s a growing problem and one in five men between the ages of 18 and 25 now have abnormal sperm counts, putting them at risk of infertility.

Which is why WaveWall developed our range of anti-radiation phone cases and covers. Special shielding fabric blocks the radiation from passing through to the body while also allowing your phone to be used normally.

Are you a big Line of Duty fan? What do you think about mobile phones being used to track our movements?

Share your thoughts in the comments below!


Frances F
Frances F

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