Cell Phone Tracking, What Works and What Doesn’t?

Locating someone else at any time looks like a scene from a James Bond movie. In old agent movies, a small tracking device was usually attached to the car, which could be used to track the target person.

In the age of mobile phones, locating people is no longer a technical problem, because smartphones can pinpoint their exact location via GPS at any time, if the user allows it. Applications can show this location on the map and also send it to other people. But what exactly is actually possible and what is not? What is permissible and what is forbidden?

Select the people who have the cell phone

If someone is carrying a smartphone with them, it is technically possible to locate that person remotely. Many people wonder if they can be found on their cell phones in an emergency. So these people want to locate them. You agree that your location may be queried and tracked. It is often people with health problems who can make sense from a medical point of view for others to locate the person in the event of an emergency.

On the other hand, there is the question of whether you can also secretly locate someone. Of course, this is not allowed. Since the location of people affects the fundamental right to self-determination with information, location without the person’s knowledge may be done only on the basis of law, that is, at most by the police, and only in the case of a criminal offense of great importance Anyone who secretly identifies other people using private apps is subject to prosecution.

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And what if you want to be yourself? If you are willing to voluntarily make your site available to other people? For example, because you go for a walk alone and want family members to find you in an emergency? This is basically possible. However, only if you are actively sharing your location with these predetermined people. Because the site is allowed if you give your consent. But even then, you cannot simply determine your location via mobile, you need special apps that can determine and transmit the location as well. There are many providers of this.

WhatsApp is one of the apps that can do that and a lot of people are already using it. Here you can send a location to show someone else where you are now. This is useful when you want to meet somewhere. In addition, the so-called live location can also be sent. Live location means the other person can see it on the map even when I’m moving. This corresponds to the permanent site for a limited time. Because you can decide if you share your live location for 15 minutes, 1 hour or 8 hours. This is the only time the other person can see where you are.

Please note: You decide for yourself who to send the site to and for how long. It doesn’t happen automatically and neither WhatsApp employees nor anyone else in your contact list can see your location. Only the person you select will see where you are. With WhatsApp, this type of location transfer is of course just an add-on.

Website apps

But there are also location-specific apps designed to identify family members. What may seem like terrible surveillance and control to some people makes others feel safe. These location apps are very popular. They can be used to check if children have arrived at school or at the gym, or to send an alert when a person leaves a preset area. If the cell phone is turned off, the last cell phone location can be moved. Please keep in mind that all persons give each other their consent on this type of site. People, for example family members, can only locate them between each other. Access by strangers is not possible. Well-known applications for mutual locations of family members are for example: “Life360 – Family Search and GPS Tracker” and “Handy GPS Location GeoZilla for Family”.

Locate your cell phone

What is allowed at any time and works without additional apps is the location of your cell phone. Both Android and iPhone have integrated this functionality. This can be used if your phone is lost or stolen. A private website allows you to see where your cell phone is on a map. It is also possible to send a message to the cell phone, lock the cell phone, or let it ring. Everything works via what’s called a Google account or Apple ID.

The job can be called up via a website if you call up the page on a computer and log in with your data (Google account or Apple ID).

The prerequisites are:

  1. You need to know the credentials for your Google account or for your Apple ID.
  2. You need a computer with an internet connection.
  3. The smartphone must be turned on. If the battery is empty in the meantime, the site will not be successful. So start your search as soon as possible after discovering a device loss.
  4. The device must have an active mobile internet connection.
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If the Internet via the smartphone is turned off or the device is lost somewhere in the depths of remote areas without cellular reception, then, unfortunately, the provided functions will not be possible.


This article was provided by our collaborating partner Levato. More help about computers, the Internet, and S.martphone can be found at www.levato.de.

Seniorweb now offers Levato’s online course What Your Cell Phone Can Do.

Brooke Vargas

"Devoted gamer. Webaholic. Infuriatingly humble social media trailblazer. Lifelong internet expert."

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