Remember When the Police Couldn’t Track You With Your Cellphone?

Note:  A brief glossary follows this post, Mom and Dad.  MK

I just read an article about how a number of local police officials are tracking cellphones, often without warrants or Hollywood scripts.

I wonder what the police would think if they tracked my cellphone.  “Okay, he’s in the embroidered washcloth section of Target.  Let’s move!”  Would they have to fill out a separate report for every call I made?

Tuesday, 5:39 p.m.  Call to “wife” from supermarket.  Asks whether they already have enough “potatoes” and if he needs to pick up a vegetable.  Subject reports that he does not care for “peas” and would rather have another starch.  “Wife” states that subject needs to learn to like vegetables.

I wonder if what the police mean by “tracking.”  Is it just phone calls and traveling?  Or does it include other uses of the cell phone?  Right now I bet there is a prosecutor somewhere putting together a case where the principal evidence is going to be the defendant’s time playing Angry Birds.  “And so, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I ask you, did the defendant,” he says, pointing to the defendant—who in turn points at himself with a “who, me?” expression and then looks around the courtroom as if the prosecutor meant someone else—“did this defendant just happen to toss multiple giant birds at the deceased’s head until her skull caved in like flimsy two-dimensional shelters?

“Or was this a premeditated crime, performed in cold blood, immediately after the undisputed nine hours the defendant spent playing Angry Birds on his Android, known as a ‘Droid in street lingo?  I believe, ladies and gentlemen, that the facts speak for themselves.”

Perhaps new crimes will have to be invented.  Like second-degree lying to your friends about prior engagements.  One day soon we’ll open the paper and read that, “Ms. Smith, of Sycamore Terrace, was arrested early yesterday morning when it was discovered, according to filed court documents, that she had told her “friends” on her Facebook app that she was too sick to attend a birthday dinner, but in fact was really watching an episode from the first season of “Game of Thrones” on an HBO app.  Ms. Smith’s attorney could not be reached for comment.”

Most likely, however, this is more about local police trying to protect the good citizens than about an invasion of privacy.  If there is an intruder in your home, brandishing a kitchen knife and wearing that ghost mask from “Scream,” of course the first thing you are going to do is text your best friend about it.  Murderer in my home. TTYL 🙂

Just think of the possibilities.  With cellphone tracking, cops will be able to go undercover, offering iPhone users free downloads of jailbroken apps—that is, apps not available at the Apple iPhone app store—and then arresting them as soon as they enter their passwords and start the download.  Even Miranda rights could be transmitted via push notifications to save time.

Of course, it will only be a matter of time before the cellphone users and app-designers wise up and figure out ways to block the police tracking.  There will be apps that will make the police think the user is in one place when in fact the user is in another place.  A text will go out, “Big shipment at the docks!  Bring ca$$$$$$h!” and the police will run to the docks, sirens blaring, while the user is at home downloading pirated movies.

But maybe the user won’t matter by that point.  Maybe we’ll just put the cellphone on trial.  It will sit at the defense, with its lawyer, and a pitcher of water in case it gets thirsty.  And if convicted it will go to cellphone jail, where it will download court cases to work on its appeal…and wait for its user to jailbreak it.


App:  Short for “application,” a software program loaded onto a smartphone.

Smartphone:  Those cellphones that people keep taking out and dragging their fingers across while you are trying to talk to them.

Angry Birds:  An app for a smartphone; a video game where the user must calibrate a slingshot’s speed and angle to launch large irate birds at comatose pigs in stacked hut-like structures.  Points are earned by smashing the structures and annihilating the pigs.

Push notifications:  Oy.  Don’t worry about it.  Just one step at a time.


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