locating via GSM, revisited (legal issues?)
balrogg at gmail.com
Tue Apr 22 18:09:07 CEST 2008
On 22/04/2008, Harald Welte <laforge at openmoko.org> wrote:
> 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
I assume that applies also to the data you can capture without
registering to any network (i.e. the neighbouring cells list),
possibly using a simple receiver on GSM frequency (rather than a full
modem), just because it is licensed? Honestly I always thought radio
band licenses only applied to people wanting to emit signal.
> > 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.
I think OpenMoko Inc. should simply not ship any BTS positions
database. OpenMoko, Inc. included a GPS in the device for the purpose
of geolocation and that's much more effective than a team of legal
However the users can probably take the risk.
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