Academic Centre of Excellence in Cyber Security

Roger Clarke – Location and Tracking of Mobile Devices: Überveillance Stalks the Streets




Abstract: During the last decade, location-tracking and monitoring applications have proliferated, in mobile cellular and wireless data networks, and through self-reporting by applications running in smartphones that are equipped with onboard global positioning system (GPS) chipsets. It is now possible to locate a smartphone-user’s location not merely to a cell, but to a small area within it. Innovators have been quick to capitalise on these location-based technologies for commercial purposes, and have gained access to a great deal of sensitive personal data in the process. In addition, law enforcement utilise these technologies, can do so inexpensively and hence can track many more people. Moreover, these agencies seek the power to conduct tracking covertly, and without a judicial warrant. This article investigates the dimensions of the problem of people-tracking through the devices that they carry. Location surveillance has very serious negative implications for individuals, yet there are very limited safeguards. It is incumbent on legislatures to address these problems, through both domestic laws and multilateral processes.

Short bio: Roger Clarke is a consultant specialising in strategic and policy aspects of eBusiness, information infrastructure, and data surveillance and privacy. He has been in what we now call the information technology industry for 40 years. He interprets technology so as to make its relevance, opportunities and impacts accessible to executives and managers, and He provides expert evidence in a variety of areas. He works out of Canberra, Australia, through his own company, Xamax Consultancy Pty Ltd, and through a small number of strategic alliances.

He has been back in full-time consultancy for over a decade after spending 1984-1995 as a senior Information Systems academic at the Australian National University. Prior to that he spent 17 years in the I.T. industry in Sydney, London and Zürich. He holds Visiting Professorships at the University of Hong Kong (in eCommerce), at the University of N.S.W. (in Cyberspace Law & Policy), and at the A.N.U. (in Computer Science).