Track a Handset on the Internet
By Eric Lin, Wed May 19 22:15:00 GMT 2004

Verilocation offers users a way to track mobile phones on the UK's four major carriers via the web. Slackers beware.

Verilocation (link courtesy of Engadget) uses cellular handoff information from the networks to estimate the location of a mobile phone. Subscribers can pay GBP 5 per month to track five phones or 50 per year to track 10 phones. Each subscription comes with 10 credits, one of which is deducted each time the user requests a handset's location. Users then have to buy additional credits (for 20 to 50 p each) to request additional data.

To prevent citizens from being tracked without their consent, when a user requests to track a phone number, a notification is sent to that handset. The owner must consent to be tracked by the Verilocation user before they can be found the first time. The user can then track the number on subsequent occasions without the owner's permission. People then know who is tracking them, but not really when. This system is more for worried parents or employers than it is for peers. Systems like "friend finder" require a user to indicate they want to be found before they can be discovered, giving peers the option of total privacy at times.

The Daily Telegraph explains how this system complies with UK privacy laws, without delving into any potential backlash like we've seen with many GPS based systems. Maybe the lowered accuracy of cellular-based location systems presents less of a problem since it can only give a general location. Those being tracked could fudge a little, like saying they were at the library when they were at an arcade across the street, but couldn't lie so boldly as to say they were caught in traffic while shooting a bucket of balls at the driving range.