How to Trace a Cell Phone Location

Michael Kwan
Texting from a cell phone on the beach

Tracing a mobile phone location can give you peace of mind, especially if you have teenagers, or anyone else you'd like to be able to keep tabs on! You don't need a GPS-enabled phone if you have a cell phone tracking program through your service provider. That makes tracking anyone on your family plan easy. However, if you're worried about being tracked by a mere acquaintance, your ex, or a stranger who came across your phone number, you're protected.

Services for Tracing a Mobile Phone Location

There are a few ways to use mobile phones to trace the locations of those you want to "watch." You can opt for a family plan, which is good if you have teenagers or a spouse you'd like to keep tabs on. Not only that, but if you're a business owner and have traveling employees, this type of service will be helpful for keeping track of where they - and critical shipments - are.

Another option is a social networking solution where users broadcast their locations to their friends. This gives the seeker less control because it's easy for the cell phone user to turn off the service that allows them to be found.

Family Plans

  • AT&T has a plan called FamilyMap that allows users to locate any other cell phones on their family plan using a PC or their own mobile phone. You won't be able to do it discreetly, however, because the other cell phone user will receive texts alerting them to the fact that they are being watched. You can track the location via an online map (real time) or receive texts of your own with location updates. The price varies based on how many phones are on the plan and uses GPS technology to locate the cell phones.
  • Sprint has a similar plan called Sprint Family Locator. There is a free 15-day trial period and an accompanying Android app to help you locate your kids from your phone.
  • Verizon also has a Family Locator program where the app must be downloaded onto every phone you want to locate. There is an Android app to receive arrival and departure updates for each family member, as well as to create scheduled location updates.

Social Networking

Take things up a notch from social networking methods like Facebook and Twitter. Allow your friends to find you by locating your cell phone. You're in control of your security settings with these, so you can hide from everyone or be detectable by only a few friends.

  • Google Latitude: With this service, you can share your location with whomever you wish. When you don't want to be found, simply turn off Google Latitude. You will also be able to see your friends' locations either on your phone or your computer.
  • Foursquare: This is another social networking service based on location, but users have to actively "check in" to each venue that they visit. This information is then shared with friends at the discretion of the user.

Smartphone Apps

All kinds of apps are available to smartphones these days and GPS tracking is no exception.

  • GPS Tracker by InstaMapper is available for the Apple iPhone and Google Android. It is a free real-time GPS tracking service, including the ability to record tracks for later analysis. Up to 100,000 positions can be recorded for each device and a map of your current location can be embedded on nearly any webpage.
  • GPS Tracking Pro is an Android app offered by Family Safety Production. The free app lets you track family or friends in real-time using GPS technology. It is also available for iPhone or for a standalone GPS locator device.

Turning Your Phone into a GPS Device

You can do even more than trace a mobile phone location. When you turn your phone into a GPS device using tools like those from AccuTracking, you can:

  • Find out where your phone is
  • Find out which direction it is headed
  • Get a text message alert when the driver goes over the speed limit or leaves a designated area

If your cell phone and service provider are compatible with the service, you have to load software onto your mobile phone first. You can then trace where your phone is on an online map. The phone will have to be in the network area; if it is outside, it will not show up on your online map.

Privacy and Security

Does the idea of tracing a mobile phone location make you nervous because you're afraid someone who means you harm may be able to track you down? Take comfort in this: if someone isn't already on your cell phone plan, it should be next to impossible for them to acquire the information they need to trace your mobile phone location and find you - unless you choose to allow them into a social network that you use to share your location.

Legal Protection

According to I.C.U. Tracer Services, it has been "illegal to sell, transfer, or possess confidential phone records" since President Bush signed off on the H.R. 4709 The Telephone Records and Privacy Protection Act of 2006 on January 12, 2007.

How to Trace a Cell Phone Location