If you want to track your mobile device, you can find out where it is by using GPS to locate a cell phone. Many new cell phones include a Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) chip in them, allowing the device to communicate its coordinates behind the scenes. iPhone, Android, Windows Mobile, and Blackberry users can use GPS to locate their cell phones. In order for the program or service to work, the phone's GPS must be enabled by the carrier.
Locating an iPhone with MobileMe
MobileMe subscriptions include an iPhone GPS locator service called "Find My iPhone." Apple enables users to locate their iPhone by logging into the MobileMe website. A map of the phone's location is displayed on the screen using Google Maps. An exact address is not provided, but Apple allows users to remotely wipe the device, play an alert sound for two minutes, and display a message on the screen, even if the device is locked. There are other GPS tracking devices for the iPhone, including iLocalis, Mobile Spy, iHound, and Navizon.
AccuTracking is a paid service that enables individuals to track the status of a Windows Mobile, Blackberry, iDEN, or Android mobile phone in real time. The service provides the exact locations of the device, providing the speed and direction of travel. The service claims to be a low cost child locator, ideal for concerned parents who are on a budget. Account holders log into the secured web server and view the phone's position using a Google Maps style layout. This is a great method for using GPS to locate a cell phone.
Carrier-Based GPS Tracking
Carriers in the United States offer location based tracking for their mobile devices. Major providers, including AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint offer GPS tracking for families and companies. The phone's location is updated frequently with the carrier and relayed to the mobile account holder on an interactive map. The carriers are introducing new social network tracking features that enable your friends to see where you are.
The Legality of Tracking Strangers
Using GPS to locate a cell phone is an invasion of privacy and illegal. Legal exceptions exist, as parents can track their children's phone and employers can track the whereabouts of their employees using GPS. It is illegal to install tracking software on someone's phone without his or her knowledge. Stalking someone by using GPS is punishable by state and federal laws. For this reason, carriers block the GPS chip from being accessed by third parties.
Carriers can track phones using their internal GPS and signal if necessary. In the event of a kidnapping, mobile operators work with authorities to provide accurate GPS data. Using GPS to locate a mobile phone can result in limited data because the cell subscriber becomes vulnerable.
Finding Lost or Stolen Phones
The legality of anti-theft GPS software is still to be determined, however; users may install applications to run in the background that can be enabled remotely, such as in the Apple iPhone. Software for Windows Mobile, Blackberry, and Android devices enables users to "trigger" the application from their home computer. While the applications vary in functionality, they can lock the device, display a message, send a text to a backup number with the device's GPS coordinates, or reformat the device's memory and destroy data on the SIM card.