Before we get the answer of the question properly, let us have a logical overview of why a cell phone can be tracked? The invention of the mobile phone has totally changed the communication methodology. Two people talking from hundreds of miles away with no wires or physical connection but air. Where this lightning-fast communication has brought a lot of ease for us, it has raised some privacy issues as well.
Our cell phone remains part of some network most of the times. When it is connected to Wi-Fi then it is part of world’s widest network the internet and when it is not connected to the internet then it is part of cellular company’s network. And trust me, anything that is a part of some network can be tracked and when it comes to smart-phones, they are superphones but most vulnerable devices. Though tracking a device without owner’s permissions is illegal but what if law enforcement agencies track it?
So, it takes us back to our question “Can the government track my phone?”. Yeah! Of course, it can. Just like those movies where a man is on a run and intelligence agencies tracking him down through his phone.
Now the question arises that why would the government track my cell phone? And the answer starts as the Law Enforcement agencies and intelligence has access to the latest technology a common man can ever think of. They use these tools for security purposes and law enforcement. Government agencies keep track of people using the easiest method that is through monitoring the networks. Powerful algorithms perform analysis about profiles of people in order to track what they do? Where they live? Where do their interests lie? What is their friends and family circle? Etc.
How does the government track my phone?
Intelligence agencies can track phones in a specific area using “Stingrays”. A stingray is a device that is capable of acting as a network tower. When a stingray is activated in a specific region, it forces all of the mobile phones operating in that area to shift to 2G for some time to bypass encryption. In this way, your mobile phone gets caught in this illusion and connects itself to that device. It results in tracking phones along complete details. Though US Department of Justice has stopped the use of stingrays without warrants excluding some special emergency cases.
Another method for phone tracking that government uses is that they directly contact the network service provider and ask for details about any phone number or mobile phone. Your cell network provider keeps logs of all of your calls, call timings, SMS messages and location as well.
Social media applications are also a way to track your phone because most of the social media applications access your location and even perform analysis on your social connections. The government can ask social media companies to provide details about any device.
Your phone can also be tracked when you use GPS. It’s quite logical because GPS is indeed the service provided by US law enforcement agencies. They can easily check your location, your phone id, your network carrier and much more.