The latest news in the trend of disturbing invasions of privacy? Cell phones can be tracked even when GPS is disabled solely by looking at battery usage.
How quickly battery power is used depends on where the phone is in proximity to a cell phone tower. Phones close to a tower use very little excess battery power, but as anyone who has been somewhere with spotty service, being far away from a tower quickly drains battery power.
Of course, there are other factors that go into battery use. Streaming movies saps power more quickly than getting on Facebook, browsing Facebook uses power more quickly than texting. However, the algorithm that can determine location based on battery usage can see through the noise of other battery when the phone is used for several minutes.
This newest version of cellphone tracking is just one example of how large amounts of information can be gleaned from seemingly simple bits of data (i.e. battery usage). Another example of this is the NSA’s collection of phone records. Americans seem to be relatively unconcerned about this tracking; a recent poll shows that 56% of Americans believe that tracking phone records is acceptable, which has grown since 2006. However, seemingly limited data about who someone calls and for how long can divulge very detailed information about an individual.
Although it is true that the NSA cares little about the activities of everyday people with no connections to terrorists, tracking of phones and their records does hold a frightening potential for what intimate details can be gathered from seemingly harmless data.