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Old 02-19-2013, 11:47 PM   #1
Miranden
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Can computer manufacturers track the computer with GPS


I just wanted to know if computer/tablet manufacturers who sell devices with onboard GPS could use the GPS to locate the machine. Do they keep records of the computers they sell that could later be used for tracking purposes, or is this illegal? What about if the computer was lost during shipping? Could they track it down?

Hope somebody knows about this. Thanks.
 
Old 02-20-2013, 02:46 AM   #2
dugan
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Quote:
What about if the computer was lost during shipping? Could they track it down?
The GPS only works if the machine is turned on. The one in my iPhone only works if it's turned on and also has Internet access. A device that's simply been lost during shipping would not be turned on. So no.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Miranden View Post
I just wanted to know if computer/tablet manufacturers who sell devices with onboard GPS could use the GPS to locate the machine. Do they keep records of the computers they sell that could later be used for tracking purposes, or is this illegal?
Nope. They don't. If they did, then they would be offering a (paid) "find my lost device" service that they could operate from their head office. "Apple, I lost my iPhone." "May I have your AppleCare account number?" "Yes. It's xxx-xxx-xxx". "One second please... Your iPhone is currently located at <insert address here>. Your AppleCare account is still good for two more lost device recoveries."

Storing and retrieving data costs money, and a company would only do it if the benefits to them outweight the cost.

And... illegal? If they wanted to do it and there was a question about legality, they'll just ask for your permission in the EULA.

Last edited by dugan; 02-20-2013 at 03:06 AM.
 
Old 02-20-2013, 03:45 AM   #3
qlue
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Virtually all modern computers have a built-in "find your computer" routine built into the motherboard. It's called, "Lojack for Laptops". It's a factory pre-installed backdoor that cannot be removed! It must be activated first though, and it works via a wired Internet connection. It must be activated in Windows and there is no Linux client for it. If you use Linux, it's effectively crippled. which makes it's only practical use to spy on Windows users!
http://www.absolute.com/en-GB/lojackforlaptops/home
 
Old 02-20-2013, 03:56 AM   #4
H_TeXMeX_H
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They can, but they probably don't. I can't say the same for various agencies out there...
 
Old 02-20-2013, 06:55 AM   #5
TobiSGD
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Contrary what movies make you believe, GPS is a one way system. A pure GPS receiver is only able to tell you your position. To tell somebody else where you are the device also needs the possibility to send that data to the person that wants to track you.

So while it may be possible to have a backdoor in a device that has GPS and the possibility to send the data, the real problem is the sheer number of devices with GPS. Tracking all those devices would be really expensive, the person that wants to track has to pay all the network traffic, needs an enormous amount of storage servers for saving all that data (not to mention energy costs, ..., to run such a server farm).

So the answer: Possible only for devices that have the capacity to send data, but only viable if done for single persons that are actively tracked.
 
Old 02-20-2013, 10:44 AM   #6
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Tablets all have wifi. Coordinate data can be stored locally and sent once the user connects.

I agree that GPS receivers cannot send your location back to the satellite. For that you would need a rather bulky antenna and a subscription, like satellite phones have.
 
Old 02-20-2013, 10:57 AM   #7
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Thanks everybody. So, if GPS is a one way system (thanks Tobi), but the data could be stored also be locally, like H_TeXMeX_H says, then it could be theoretically be sent to the manufacturer once the user connects via wifi, right? But is this something they actually do? If a computer were lost during shipping and someone else found it, for instance (or stole it), could they track it down?
 
Old 02-20-2013, 11:17 AM   #8
onebuck
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Moderator Response

Moved: This thread is more suitable in <General> and has been moved accordingly to help your thread/question get the exposure it deserves.
 
Old 02-20-2013, 11:41 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Miranden View Post
Do they keep records of the computers they sell that could later be used for tracking purposes, or is this illegal? What about if the computer was lost during shipping? Could they track it down?

Hope somebody knows about this. Thanks.
De-caf?
 
Old 02-20-2013, 12:15 PM   #10
Miranden
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Quote:
Originally Posted by onebuck View Post
Moved: This thread is more suitable in <General> and has been moved accordingly to help your thread/question get the exposure it deserves.
Sorry, I thought I posted in General.
 
Old 02-20-2013, 12:17 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by Habitual View Post
De-caf?
I've been drinking chamomile tea all day and it doesn't help. :P
 
Old 02-20-2013, 03:35 PM   #12
qlue
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Miranden View Post
Thanks everybody. So, if GPS is a one way system (thanks Tobi), but the data could be stored also be locally, like H_TeXMeX_H says, then it could be theoretically be sent to the manufacturer once the user connects via wifi, right? But is this something they actually do? If a computer were lost during shipping and someone else found it, for instance (or stole it), could they track it down?
I'd say no, they couldn't track it electronically. Not because it's not technically possible, but because it's not logistically possible.
The cost would far outweigh the benefits and insurances takes care of any losses that do occur.
 
Old 02-20-2013, 04:32 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by Miranden View Post
I've been drinking chamomile tea all day and it doesn't help. :P
Tinfoil hat?
 
Old 02-20-2013, 05:49 PM   #14
Miranden
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Originally Posted by Habitual View Post
Tinfoil hat?
Where's the "middle finger" emoticon on this forum?
 
Old 02-21-2013, 11:55 AM   #15
273
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Apple devices were found to be recording GPS coordinates locally: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/04...tion_tracking/
There is also a service to find your device offered for Apple and Android kit. Of course both need a data connection as mentioned.
There is also, I think, a Federal mandate that all phones sold in the US will have to have GPS onboard so that "911 callers can be located" -- make of that what you will.
So, yes, manufacturers can and do track devices as do law enforcement, the owners of the devices and probably some criminals too. If it's possible nowadays then it's probably being done -- there's nothing paranoid about worrying that we now live in a society where our every move is tracked.

Last edited by 273; 02-21-2013 at 11:57 AM.
 
  


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