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In comparison to GSM monitoring, these forms of tracking are not necessarily as useful for government surveillance.This is because they work best at short distances and require prior knowledge or observation to determine what MAC address is built into a particular person's device.(Reportedly, the Ukrainian government used a tower dump for this purpose in 2014, to make a list of all of the people whose mobile phones were present at an anti-government protest.) Carriers also exchange data with one another about the location from which a device is currently connecting.
A government or another technically sophisticated organization can also collect location data directly, such as with a cell site simulator (a portable fake cell phone tower that pretends to be a real one, in order to “catch” particular users' mobile phones and detect their physical presence and/or spy on their communications, also sometimes called an IMSI Catcher or Stingray).
The ability to do this results from the way the mobile network is built, and is commonly called triangulation.
One way the operator can do this is to observe the signal strength that different towers observe from a particular subscriber's mobile phone, and then calculate where that phone must be located in order to account for these observations.
There are at least four ways that an individual phone's location can be tracked by others.
In all modern mobile networks, the operator can calculate where a particular subscriber's phone is located whenever the phone is powered on and registered with the network.