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How to Track Someone Using Their Smartphone

Varun Choudhary Hacker Noon profile picture

@varunchoudhary14Varun Choudhary

A Digital Nomad Embracing Change!

There are many reasons or situations which call for someone to track another individual on their phone. Some great examples include parents keeping a tab on their children, or family members on each other, whenever they are not around each other in person.

Given that knowing the exact location of an individual tends to give a person comfort about their loved ones, it is a given that people will want to know the whereabouts of their family members.

And with the rise of cell phone technology, we can achieve exactly that. It might seem like a rather difficult task, and something which only tech wizards can pull off, but that’s not really true.

On the contrary, it is possible to go about doing this, if one has the necessary information about the same.

If you would like to keep a tab on someone with the help of their cell phone, there are several options currently available. The exact one used will depend on the exact necessity that you have, based on which you can take you decision.

Given in the list below are two of the most common ways in which a person can be tracked via his phone.

1. Have the Necessary Tracking Software Installed

This is one of the most common ways in which the tracking mechanism works.

The phones that can be tracked are generally smartphones, which run on operating systems such as Android, Windows, Apples, etc. In other words, this is not something that can be done with basic phones, as they don’t have the technological features to enable something like this.

It works just like any other software that one may install on the phone. The way it works is usually with the help of the GPS tracking mechanisms that are already built into the phones.

The Monitoring software, usually through the internet, transmits a signal to a server or another device about its current position. This can be accessed by another authorized user, to know about the exact location of the individual.

It is one of the most effective ways to know about the location of an individual. At the same time however, there are some limitations to this software. GPS coordinates can only be accessed if the feature is ‘active’ on the phone; if the location feature has been turned off by the phone’s user for any reason, it would become very difficult to figure out their exact location.

Also to note here is that the software used tend to be both free as well as paid. As a result, you may have to spend money to get the kind of features that you are looking for, since free applications often don’t have them.

2. Signal Triangulation — a La the Police

This is one of the more difficult tricks to pull off, and something which can only be done by professionals.

It is a bit difficult to explain the entire process, and it is therefore simplified for the sake of understanding. The position of any phone is revealed to a cell phone tower, whenever any signal is transmitted or received. It is not an accurate signal, but rather a ‘rough’ one.

This can however be made more accurate, if the signal is received or transmitted by multiple cell phone towers, so as to get a rough idea of the distance between each tower and the cell phone. Also to add is that this works for all phones, whether they are normal phones or smartphones, making it the entire more effective if you really want to figure out an individual’s location.

It is in a way a form of estimation, where the ‘rough’ position of the cell phone is located with the help of skilled professionals and advanced equipment.

Do note that the process is rather slow and cumbersome. And given that people move when they use their phone, the exact location of the person can often be difficult to determine, as the person may have changed their location in comparison to the last time their phone received or transmitted a signal.

Quite often, tools like these are out of limits for most civilians, but are used by law enforcement to track down suspects and law breakers. In fact, the majority of the times that this strategy is used are by law enforcement and other government agencies, rather than individuals. Given the amount of expertise, technology and coordination it takes, this is something that would be difficult to expect an ordinary citizen to engage in. But at the same time, the strategy can be used by these agencies on behalf of the average individual, if the situation calls for it, such as in the instance of say, their family member or friend has gone missing.

The Legal Aspect that Must Be Addressed

Last but not the least, it is important to add here that there are other considerations that must be taken as well.

One of the most important is that of legality. For example, while it is fine to keep a tab on your kids for the sake of their safety, doing the same for the purpose of spying might just get you into a lot of legal trouble.

The exact name of the law will often vary, but it has to do with the violation of somebody’s privacy. Also to be added here is that these laws apply to cell phones as well as other forms of technology such as the internet. If you would like to know more about the exact legal nature of it all, it is a good idea to consult a local lawyer, as they will be familiar with local laws. Do note that laws change with jurisdiction, meaning that you will have to check this up with multiple lawyers, if you are intending to engage in any sort of monitoring over multiple jurisdictions.

So keep in mind that before you decide to start monitoring someone’s location with the help of their cell phone, the legal consequences of doing so. The penalty for any unauthorized access may range from a small fine to imprisonment, depending on the nature of the privacy violation.

As a whole, there are certainly ways in which one can go about achieving this task, even if it seems a bit difficult. If you can make sure that you use the principles and technology ethically and legally, you should do fine in the long run and get the job done.


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