locating via GSM, revisited (legal issues?)

Harald Welte laforge at openmoko.org
Tue Apr 22 13:46:27 CEST 2008

On Tue, Apr 22, 2008 at 06:35:28PM +0800, joerg at openmoko.org wrote:
> Am Di  22. April 2008 schrieb Harald Welte:
> > On Mon, Apr 21, 2008 at 05:59:29PM +0800, joerg at openmoko.org wrote:
> > > Am Mo  21. April 2008 schrieb Werner Almesberger:
> > > > joerg at openmoko.org wrote:
> > > > > For many countries there are ageold databases created by hobbyists 
> doing 
> > > > > antenna-spotting. In Germany, carrier O2 sends quite exact 
> Gauss-Krueger 
> > > > > coordinates on CBC 221 for each of his stations.
> > > > 
> > > > Okay, that's good. So we can have a comprehensive geographical database
> > > > we can put our "GSM n-space" in relation to. (Although no motivation
> > > > was ever stated, I'm assuming here that the goal of the whole exercise
> > > > is to avoid using GPS. Thus we can't correlate vectors we measure in
> > > > GSM n-space to 2D or 3D real-world vectors we measure with GPS.)
> > > > 
> > > > Is there something like openstreetmap with these antenna locations or
> > > > does one have to hunt and gather from scattered repositories ?
> > > 
> > > Dunno...
> > 
> > At least in Germany the location of the cellular towers (especially
> > combined with the information if they're GPRS, EDGE, UMTS or HSDPA) is
> > considered a trade secret by the operator.
> Quite obviously not for O2! They at least send Gauss-Krueger for every of 
> their BTS, and you may receive this with any simple cellphone. So which kinda 
> secret is this then?

the point is not what kind of actual secret it is.  The point is that
you are working in a licensed radio band. licensed to the operator.  The
operator can send data on this band all day long, unencrypted.  As long
as you have no permission by the operator, you may not legally use that

> As long as you can legally acquire the info (you also might use a map and a 
> photocamera with tagging), and it's not offensive nor copyrighted or mere 
> false, you very usually may publish it whereever and in any amount you like.

the problem is that there is no legal way to acquire that information
unless you have explicit permission by the operator to use it.

> For *sure* we will get away with fingerprinting like it's done with wifi 
> positioning. 

no, wifi operates in unlicensed band and thus has a different world.

There really is no point about arguing this.  I have been active at the
brink of law and IT for a number of years now, and I state that I
believe there is a problem.

I also believe that OpenMoko, Inc. should investigate this field
legally, possibly by having legal experts in the most important
jurisdictions of the target market look into the respective situation
with regard to their local laws.

There is little point arguing technically about those things... :(

- Harald Welte <laforge at openmoko.org>          	        http://openmoko.org/
Software for the world's first truly open Free Software mobile phone

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