Tags: FCC | cellphones | altitude | 911

FCC: We Need Cellphones To Pinpoint a Caller's Location

FCC: We Need Cellphones To Pinpoint a Caller's Location

By    |   Thursday, 20 November 2014 01:23 PM

New cellphone rules proposed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for emergency, or 911, calls have cellphone manufacturers and providers, and privacy and public safety advocates in an uproar.

Your cellphone already can track your general ground-level location using its GPS (global positioning system) application, or your location in relation to specific cellphone transmission towers.

The new rules specify, for the first time, that the FCC also wants cellphone providers to allow tracking of phones by altitude, The Washington Post reports.

Today, if you are on the 10th floor of an office building and make a 911 call, rescuers may find the specific building quickly, but could be forced to make a time-consuming search of every floor to find you, at a time when you are desperately in need of help and every second counts.

However, new barometric sensor technology installed in cellphones can read altitude through air pressure, making it possible to locate which floor you're on.

Already, the Post reports, about 100 million cellphone users' devices have the capability of allowing altitude location — devices like the iPhone 6 or other Android model.

Within five years, the FCC wants to mandate that 80 percent of all cellphone wireless calls will be made with devices that can pinpoint altitude, within 30 seconds of the call, to within 50 meters of the right floor, the paper reports.

About 70 percent of 911 calls originate from cellphones, and that number is increasing, the FCC reports.

The proposed regulations have triggered a lobbying battle, with wireless providers wanting more time to meet the new requirements and public safety advocates pushing for rapid adoption.

Privacy advocates also are worried about the effect of the FCC's proposed rules.

Christopher Soghoian of the ACLU told the Post, "This puts those of us in the civil liberties community in a difficult position of opposing the creation of location services for emergency services, because we know the FBI will ask for it later and we don’t have the power to stop them when they ask for it later."

In fact, the Post notes, data previously acquired under FCC 911 rulings has been provided to law enforcement agencies. Even if you turn off the GPS application in your cellphone, 911 operators can activate it remotely.

"Law-abiding Americans should not have to worry about being tracked by law enforcement or other government entities in non-emergency circumstances," FCC Commissioner Michael O'Rielly said, the Post reported.

There is also the question of whether cellphone providers and first responders are capable of switching to the new systems within the five-year goal proposed by the FCC.

However, Tom Wheeler, FCC chairman,  said, "We are dealing with human life. It's never wrong to overreach on those kinds of goals," the Post reported.

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New cellphone rules proposed by the Federal Communications Commission for emergency, or 911, calls would pinpoint a caller's location by altitude as well as ground level, so help can arrive faster — but some fear what the government might do with that extra information.
FCC, cellphones, altitude, 911
Thursday, 20 November 2014 01:23 PM
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