The recent controversy surrounding Apple’s location tracking services has shone the spotlight on these services.
Location tracking is a service through which one can find the current position of a mobile phone. The phone needs to contact the closest antenna, which it constantly does even while it is moving, and the strength of the signal is also used to determine where the phone is located.
Handsets can be tracked through this process. In this case, a software is installed on the handset, which finds the location of the phone using signal strengths of the home tower and nearby cells and cell identification, from which data is sent to the carrier all the time.
If the handset has GPS (global positioning system), location tracking becomes even more accurate. GPS makes use of 24 satellites, which are revolving around the earth in such a way that at least three satellites at one time focus on one place to make sure the location data sent is correct. The accuracy range with GPS is a few metres.
The GPS system, however, is dependent on weather conditions and the phone’s location. For example, if the phone is inside a building, tunnel, or garage, its position cannot be tracked.
Another method for location tracking is through WiFi, a method that is slightly less accurate but is better than location tracking based on cell tower signals.
The accuracy is 20 to 30 metres, which is acceptable for most purposes. At the same time, once the mobile phone is out of the WiFi area, the tracking process goes for a toss.
The recent controversies involving Android and iPhone location tracking services have caused people to fear that these services invade their privacy.