Tag Archives | GPS

Earth May Have Dark Matter Halo

Dark matter haloScientists have discovered that the Earth is heavier than they thought, with so-called Dark Matter being the leading candidate for the planet packing on the pounds, reports New Scientist:

GPS is handy for finding a route, but it might be able to solve fundamental questions in physics too. An analysis of GPS satellite orbits hints that Earth is heavier than thought, perhaps due to a halo of dark matter.

Dark matter is thought to make up about 80 per cent of the universe’s matter, but little else is known about it, including its distribution in the solar system. Hints that the stuff might surround Earth come from observations of space probes, several of which changed their speeds in unexpected ways as they flew past Earth. In 2009, Steve Adler of the Institute of Advanced Studies in Princeton, New Jersey, showed how dark matter bound by Earth’s gravity could explain these anomalies.

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Appellate Court: Feds Can’t GPS Track Your Car Without Warrant

Tread lightly, Feds.

Tread lightly, Feds.

Sorry, Hank.

Via Ars Technica:

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals has handed down a huge decision in favor of privacy rights in America. On Tuesday, the court confirmed in United States v. Katzin that federal authorities must get a probable cause-driven warrant before attaching a GPS tracking device on a suspect’s car.

Of course, the circumstances of this case may sound familiar. Indeed, the Supreme Court decided in January 2012 in the United States v. Jones case that attaching a GPS device to a suspect’s car without a warrant constituted unreasonable search and seizure. In the wake of that decision, the FBI turned off 3,000 such tracking devices. However, the Jones case did not provide a clear-cut ruling on whether a lower legal standard could conceivably apply. In the new case, Katzin, the court definitively answered that with a resounding no.

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How Smartphone Carriers Are Making Money By Tracking Your Behavior

smartphone carriers

A log of vast numbers of individuals’ movements and actions is a burgeoning goldmine for major wireless carriers, the MIT Technology Review writes:

Wireless operators have access to an unprecedented volume of information about users’ real-world activities, but for years these massive data troves were put to little use other than for internal planning and marketing.

This data is under lock and key no more. Under pressure to seek new revenue streams, a growing number of mobile carriers are now carefully mining, packaging, and repurposing their subscriber data to create powerful statistics about how people are moving about in the real world.

In late 2011, Verizon Wireless, the largest U.S. carrier, changed its privacy policy so that it could share anonymous and aggregated subscriber data with outside parties. Verizon is working to sell demographics about the people who, for example, attend an event, how they got there or the kinds of apps they use once they arrive.

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Faulty iPhone Maps Could Kill You, Australian Authorities Warn

Is our reliance on GPS and mobile devices maps making us increasingly disoriented and oblivious? To me, the relevant aspect of this story is not that Apple’s map app is flawed, but that numerous people would drive to a remote, dangerous desert just because their smartphone told them to. Via Newser:

Apple’s much-maligned mapping system is so flawed that motorists who rely on it run the risk of ending up dead in the wilderness, Australia police warn. Over the last few weeks, six motorists have become stranded in Victoria state’s Murray Sunset National Park when following the map app’s directions to a city more than 40 miles away, CNET reports. Some iPhone users were stranded in the park for two hours without enough food and water.

Police in the area have urged drivers to rely on other forms of mapping. “Police are extremely concerned as there is no water supply within the park,” they said in a statement, warning that temperatures in the park could reach 115 degrees Fahrenheit, making the map problem “a potentially life-threatening issue.” Apple has yet to comment on the issue.

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Nestle Embeds GPS Trackers In Candy Bars To Hunt Down Eaters

Via popsci.com:

Customers buying Kit-Kat bars in the United Kingdom could be unwrapping a 21st-century version of Willy Wonka’s Golden Ticket–a GPS unit the candy-maker will use to find them, apprehend them and give them a prize. Nestlé claims to be the first to market its chocolatey wares with a GPS-based promotion. The somewhat sinister-sounding “We Will Find You” campaign will place a GPS-enabled bar inside four versions of Kit-Kats. Inside the wrapper, it would look exactly like a regular Kit-Kat, according to the York Press newspaper, in the town where Nestlé is based. When the would-be snacker pulls a tab to open the wrapper, the GPS device will turn on, which will notify the company. Then a “prize team” will locate this person within 24 hours and hand him or her a check for £10,000 (about $16,000).

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DEA Can’t Enter 150 Pounds of Pot Into Evidence, Because It Illegally GPS-Tracked This Dude

DEAGuess the system works at times. Reports the AP Via ABC News:

When Kentucky State Troopers stopped 49-year-old Robert Dale Lee on Interstate 75 in September 2011, they knew he would be coming their way and what to look for in his truck.

The Drug Enforcement Administration had been following Lee’s truck from Chicago using a GPS — a tracking device placed on the vehicle as part of a multi-state drug probe — and troopers found 150 pounds of marijuana in the vehicle.

Now, a federal judge has ruled the stash inadmissible in the case against Lee because the DEA and troopers didn’t have a warrant to place the device on the truck.

“In this case, the DEA agents had their fishing poles out to catch Lee,” Thapar wrote. “Admittedly, the agents did not intend to break the law. But, they installed a GPS device on Lee’s car without a warrant in the hope that something might turn up.”…

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Police Are Using Phone Tracking as a Routine Tool

CellphoneReports Eric Lichtblau in the NY Times:

Law enforcement tracking of cellphones, once the province mainly of federal agents, has become a powerful and widely used surveillance tool for local police officials, with hundreds of departments, large and small, often using it aggressively with little or no court oversight, documents show.

The practice has become big business for cellphone companies, too, with a handful of carriers marketing a catalog of “surveillance fees” to police departments to determine a suspect’s location, trace phone calls and texts or provide other services. Some departments log dozens of traces a month for both emergencies and routine investigations.

With cellphones ubiquitous, the police call phone tracing a valuable weapon in emergencies like child abductions and suicide calls and investigations in drug cases and murders. One police training manual describes cellphones as “the virtual biographer of our daily activities,” providing a hunting ground for learning contacts and travels …

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A Guide To Getting Lost

Maps and directions are virtually worthless, as they have become ubiquitous. But what about the incomparable sensation of being lost? Much harder to come by. That’s where this guide comes in. (Eventually taking you back to where you started.) Via Pop-Up City:

Recent Chelsea College of Art & Design graduate Dan Cottrell has created a guide for the sole aim of getting lost. Pyschogeography is nothing new, but AWOL provides a beautifully simple design approach to the subject.

AWOL comes as a pack, consisting of a compass that doesn’t work, a simple poster and and a map that feature algorithmic walks, which always lovingly return you to your departure point – ensuring you can explore your surroundings worry-free.

lostguide

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Security By Bending GPS Geography

INV-TSABLDG BLOG writes that the exurbs of Washington, DC are scattered with office parks quietly housing organizations and companies connected to national security and government secrets. Drive though, and you may not notice, but your GPS could be jammed, giving incorrect directions, or even suggesting that you drive in an infinite U-turn loop. These are areas where maps suddenly go sour:

In a fascinating detail from a series of articles published two years ago in the Washington Post, we learn about one way to hide classified government infrastructure in plain sight.

“Just outside Washington,” authors Dana Priest and William Arkin explain, in the exurbs of depopulated office parks and “huge buildings with row after row of opaque, blast-resistant windows,” there can be found what the authors describe as “the capital of an alternative geography of the United States, one defined by the concentration of top-secret government organizations and the companies that do work for them.” And it is cleverly camouflaged:

The existence of these clusters is so little known that most people don’t realize when they’re nearing the epicenter of Fort Meade’s, even when the GPS on their car dashboard suddenly begins giving incorrect directions, trapping the driver in a series of U-turns, because the government is jamming all nearby signals.

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