Aug 12, 2019 by Foresight
Every breath you take, every move you make… mobile phone tracking and the popularity of Channel 4’s Hunted
Mobile technology is as ubiquitous as pens and maps, but the former can be used to track a person’s every move through cell site analysis, as expertly demonstrated in this year’s thrilling series of Hunted. More than 1.7 million viewers tuned in to the first episode, and new viewers were no doubt surprised by the level of sophistication deployed in modern day tracking software and personnel.
As mobile phones become ever further ensconced in the population’s ‘must have’ items, it’s easier to locate anyone. Imagine your mobile phone: how often do you use it in a single day? Calls, texts, calendar entries, shopping, checking Facebook and Twitter, taking photos, banking, internet searches…the list goes on. Recent Ofcom data suggests that the average adult in the UK uses their phone for two hours each day – double the amount of time they spend on a desktop or laptop and twice as long as a decade ago. It’s easy to see why cell site analysis is becoming such a useful tool in tracking people – where relevant – and their online activities.
What is cell site analysis?
Cell site analysis is the geographical locating of a mobile phone or data device at the time a call or SMS is made or received, either live or historically. It can also trace any log-in, for example to social media, music apps and calendars, making it an extremely useful tool on the armoury of the police and solicitors in their ability to verify specific events and analyse time lines.
How does cell site analysis work?
Small and weak antennas in mobile phones mean that they can only transmit radio waves over a very short distance – similar to a CB radio or walkie talkie. In order to transmit data over a wider geographic area, mobile phones need to be connected to a cellular network of phone masts, or a base station, which are placed at regular geographical intervals in a patchwork of cells.
The masts pick up the weak signal from mobile phones and relay it to the mast closest to the person you are talking to. If you are on the move, your mobile phone transfers your conversation or actions to the next nearest mast – and so on.
The experts on Channel 4’s Hunted are currently using the information transmitted to and from phone masts to pinpoint the location of the individuals who are being ‘hunted’. They’ve had early success in locating several of the participants solely with the use of cell site analysis.
Burner phones – or mobiles bought off the shelf and used as a ‘new phone – are not as ‘off grid’ as you would think. As soon as they are used a few times, perhaps to contact friends by voice or text, cell site analysis experts are able to begin triangulating your position.
What is cell site analysis used for?
Cell site analysis has many uses, but in terms of expert witness assessments and reports it can be used to assist in confirming or disproving alibis, placing individual at the scene of a crime and accurately corroborating defence or prosecution information on a particular individual and their patterns of movement.
How can cell site analysis help solicitors?
Our experts can provide independent and professional services in cell site survey, cell mapping, call sequencing, detailed reports and expert opinion. These services are for evidential purposes and are supported by the expert in court if required.
Advice on specific data to be requested from telephone NetworksAnalysis of Call Data Records Production of Call Sequence TablesProvision of mapping services to locate cell sites, cell sectors, scenes of crime and pertinent addresses, available as hard copy A3 colour maps or as PowerPoint presentation Coverage maps / Field strength surveys
Contact our team for expert witnesses in all aspects of Forensic IT.
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