/ Location tracking of individuals.

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Bob Kemp 07 Jan 2020

A rather disturbing NYT article on how easy it is to identify and track individuals via mobile phone pings:

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/12/19/opinion/location-tracking-cell-phone.html

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Rigid Raider 07 Jan 2020
In reply to Bob Kemp:

Not too worried here; I think the only app, which knows my location is Google Maps because I always deny access to others. 

I do remember watching an episode of Crimewatch in which somebody was being sought by Police but, as they said, "He doesn't use social media so he's proving rather difficult to find". 

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wercat 07 Jan 2020
In reply to Bob Kemp:

ent gorra one to be pinged

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FactorXXX 07 Jan 2020
In reply to Bob Kemp:

I've wrapped my phone in tin foil.

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GrahamD 07 Jan 2020
In reply to Bob Kemp:

I deliberately leave my phone in the car.  That'll show em.

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Frank4short 07 Jan 2020
In reply to Bob Kemp:

I was in a vodaphone/o2 shop (can't remember exactly, but it's not relevant) around 10-12 years ago when smart phones were first entering the market properly. A girl was having a warranty issue with her new phone and while dealing with customer service a little scrote ran in grabbed it off of the counter and ran off with it. As it happened one of the senior country managers for the phone company happened to be in the shop at the time. He immediately called their exchange/network management center/control hub. They were able to track down the thief, get the police and return the phone in under 20 minutes of it being stolen. That was almost a lifetime ago in technological terms, i imagine if anything the case it's even easier now. 

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In reply to Bob Kemp:

We're tracked everywhere  - banks tracking transactions - especially contactless payments can tell them which checkout you were stood at.

You can either get paranoid and go off grid entirely, or ignore it and live in blissful ignorance.

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WaterMonkey 07 Jan 2020
In reply to Nempnett Thrubwell:

> We're tracked everywhere  - banks tracking transactions - especially contactless payments can tell them which checkout you were stood at.

> You can either get paranoid and go off grid entirely, or ignore it and live in blissful ignorance.

Or use it to your advantage, get accurate traffic displays on google maps.

Me, my wife and our two daughters all have find my friends on our phones, so handy for seeing where each other is, making sure our eldest got back to uni safely, seeing where i am on a mountaineering or sailing weekend etc

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Andy Johnson 07 Jan 2020
In reply to Rigid Raider:

Your mobile network provider knows where your phone is at all times to quite a high degree of accuracy using signal intensity triangulation from phone masts/basestations. It doesn't matter which apps your phone is running or what permissions you've configured. Its how the network routes calls to your phone.

Android/iOS/etc run on your phone's "application" processor/cpu. There's an entirely separate "baseband" processor that manages the phone's interface to the network: you have no control over this, and it typically runs inaccessible, closed-source software.

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Dax H 07 Jan 2020
In reply to Andy Johnson:

They certainly do, 18 months ago I contacted EE to try confirm if one of my employees was taking the piss and they confirmed that his phone was in Manchester Airport at a given time that just happened to correspond with the boarding times for a flight that the prick had tickets for sent to his work email whilst throwing a sicky. 

The annoying thing was he had plenty of holiday left but chose to throw a sicky to fly to Italy for a job interview instead. 

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dread-i 07 Jan 2020
In reply to Bob Kemp:

"It originated from a location data company, one of dozens quietly collecting precise movements using software slipped onto mobile phone apps."

I would hazard a guess that this is from social media platforms. Probably facebook, as they seem to give access to anyone for a fee.

For anyone, with even the most basic understanding of mobile technology, the idea of being tracked is not new. This data can also be used for good as well as ill. The story seem to be along the lines of 'hammers can be used to bludgeon people to death', which is true. They can also be used to build things.

The data can be used to improve traffic flow in a city by changing traffic light timings. Or to find a location for a new restaurant, which has a high foot fall. You can also stalk people.

The UK has GDPR to protect data and to prevent people from de-anonymizing data. If you can isolate an individual phone, rather than provide a general heat map for a gepgraphic area, then the data is not anonymous.

Art 26 ... Personal data which have undergone pseudonymisation, which could be attributed to a natural person by the use of additional information should be considered to be information on an identifiable natural person.

The US doesn't have similar protections.

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wercat 07 Jan 2020
In reply to dread-i:

> The EU has GDPR to protect data and to prevent people from de-anonymizing data.

corrected FOC

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deepsoup 07 Jan 2020
In reply to Frank4short:

> They were able to track down the thief, get the police and return the phone in under 20 minutes of it being stolen.  That was almost a lifetime ago in technological terms, i imagine if anything the case it's even easier now. 

I suspect you haven't tried to get the police to respond rapidly to a 'minor' crime recently!  ;-)

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David Riley 07 Jan 2020
In reply to dread-i:

> The story seem to be along the lines of 'hammers can be used to bludgeon people to death', which is true. They can also be used to build things.

Killing with a hammer is treated as a most urgent problem.  So misuse is mostly stopped.

> The UK has GDPR to protect data and to prevent people from de-anonymizing data.

Criminals, and businesses you never heard of, are seemingly left to do whatever they like.  So misuse is not stopped.

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cb294 07 Jan 2020
In reply to Dax H:

How was this legal? Company phone?

CB

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Bob Kemp 07 Jan 2020
In reply to Bob Kemp:

Replies so far seem to be fairly convinced that this isn't particularly new, or much of a problem for a variety of reasons. At a personal level that may be true for most of us. What's interesting about this is the sheer scale of the data collection involved and the proliferation of that data amongst a range of companies and organisations. We don't yet know what the full implications of this will be, but I suspect for many around the world there will be unpleasant consequences.

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Blue Straggler 07 Jan 2020
In reply to cb294:

> How was this legal? Company phone?

> CB

Same question from me. 

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Frank4short 07 Jan 2020
In reply to deepsoup:

> I suspect you haven't tried to get the police to respond rapidly to a 'minor' crime recently!  ;-)

I think it was the fact they had a C-suite guy from the phone company telling them the exact phone location to within maybe 10m, CCTV footage from the shop and a load of witnesses. I imagine it would have gone differently if the shop had just reported a shop lifting incident.

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dread-i 07 Jan 2020
In reply to David Riley:

>Criminals, and businesses you never heard of, are seemingly left to do whatever they like.  So misuse is not stopped.

Criminals breaking the law? Well, that's in the job description.

Businesses cannot do whatever they like, as the law restricts what they can do. The UK has signed into law the Data Protection Act 2018, which is a GDPR equivalent law.

British Airways was hit with a £183 million fine over a GDPR breach. So if the directors of the errant company wont go to jail, there is the possibility of a large stick with which to beat them.

I agree that there is a lot of data sloshing about and that it can be abused in exciting ways. There are checks and balances in place to prevent abuse. I wonder how many people read all those privacy notices on apps and cookies. It is likely that people willingly give consent to their data being shared, even if they don't fully understand the consequences.

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johncook 07 Jan 2020
In reply to Bob Kemp:

Just heard on R4 (About 11 this morning) that modern ICT now produces approx 4% of global CO2 as a result of the energy requirements to store and transmit the massive amounts of data circulation. I think it said that the average user creates 10kg of CO2 from a single phone in a year just on e-mails, but was in traffic at the time so... On top of that is the huge carbon footprint of the sourcing, processing materials and the manufacture of the said ICT devices.

For comparison airlines produce 4% of global CO2.

Interesting information.

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Durbs 07 Jan 2020
In reply to Blue Straggler:

Seems legit for me assuming it was a company phone.

Same as another chap who made the news I think who got fired for comments within a "personal" skype chat that was taking place on his work computer.

That it was a personal chat didn't matter - the company owned the computer, same as the company owns the mobile. It's their property, they're allowed to know where it is, and what it's been used for.

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wercat 07 Jan 2020
In reply to johncook:

that's why we keep on with our 10 year old laptops, just about to upgrade the RAM with refurbished cards

Post edited at 16:23
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Blue Straggler 07 Jan 2020
In reply to Durbs:

Sure. We were just seeking verification that it was a company phone. I have a company phone, my company knows where I am at all times. Luckily for me, I don't throw sickies and swan off on holiday. 

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wercat 07 Jan 2020
In reply to Blue Straggler:

but you aren't the Data Protection Registrar

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Bob Kemp 07 Jan 2020
In reply to dread-i:

I agree that businesses can't do what they like - in theory. In practice it seems to be rather different. Companies like Facebook and Google appear to be prepared to ignore the law despite being so prominent, so who knows what these obscure data companies are doing? As for consent without understanding the consequences, the problem may be that actually we do, in part at least, understand the consequences but don't actually care - the so-called 'privacy paradox'  - 

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/may/05/privacy-paradox-why-do-people-keep-using-tech-firms-data-facebook-scandal

Unfortunately that seems to apply to me too... I still accept data sharing cookies etc. because the alternative is often too time-consuming (deliberately, I assume).

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marsbar 07 Jan 2020
In reply to Blue Straggler:

> Same question from me. 

They wouldn't tell him if it wasn't.  

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FactorXXX 07 Jan 2020
In reply to wercat:

> but you aren't the Data Protection Registrar

No one is the Data Protection Registrar...

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David Riley 07 Jan 2020
In reply to dread-i:

> >Criminals, and businesses you never heard of, are seemingly left to do whatever they like.  So misuse is not stopped.

> Criminals breaking the law? Well, that's in the job description.

A rather illogical response to my post.  Obviously those killing with hammers, or any breaking the law are criminals.

> Businesses cannot do whatever they like, as the law restricts what they can do. The UK has signed into law the Data Protection Act 2018, which is a GDPR equivalent law.

They can if it's not enforced.

> British Airways was hit with a £183 million fine over a GDPR breach. So if the directors of the errant company wont go to jail, there is the possibility of a large stick with which to beat them.

But the criminals and businesses you never heard of, get away with it.

> I wonder how many people read all those privacy notices on apps and cookies. It is likely that people willingly give consent to their data being shared, even if they don't fully understand the consequences.

What choice is there ?  I bet you do the same.  The law should not be avoided by enforcing consent.

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dread-i 07 Jan 2020
In reply to David Riley:

>But the criminals and businesses you never heard of, get away with it.

That's twice you've stated that, could you provide any evidence to support it?

Criminals are committing a crime. If, (and that what you are referring to), they get caught they will be in trouble. Same as if they robbed a bank. And large fines show that the stick is very real.

You are alluding to the fact that all businesses (that I have never heard of) are doing this. I'm pointing out that there are legal safeguards to prevent that within the UK and EU. If they choose to ignore those safeguards, they become criminals. See above.

>What choice is there ?  I bet you do the same. 

Yes you are right. I do the same. I run various tools to stop trackers in my browsers. But they don't always work and apps on my phone may slurp data when I use them (but not in the background when not being used.)

>The law should not be avoided by enforcing consent.

Consent is a big part of the law.

Under GDPR you have to actively consent. No prefilled check boxes saying 'yes'.

It is an interesting piece of journalism, but it is not surprising to many. We were having discussions about online privacy before the turn of the century. This is a slightly different take on that.

If people are concerned, then stick your phone in airplane mode. Turn it on every few hours to see who called you, phone them back, then back to airplane mode. Reset your advertiser identifier every week at some random location (don't do it from home or work).

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Bob Kemp 07 Jan 2020
In reply to dread-i:

> >But the criminals and businesses you never heard of, get away with it.

> That's twice you've stated that, could you provide any evidence to support it?

> Criminals are committing a crime. If, (and that what you are referring to), they get caught they will be in trouble. Same as if they robbed a bank. And large fines show that the stick is very real.

I'd like to think you're right but it seems that this doesn't apply in some areas of white-collar crime, for example where political sensitivities are involved. As for example the Leave.uk overspending case, where the Electoral Commission found they broke the law but no prosecutions have followed. Similarly, cases of companies indulging in bribery and corruption are frequently not prosecuted - some of these are examined here:

https://www.legalbusiness.co.uk/analysis/disputes-yearbook-2019/sponsored-briefing-financial-crime-and-criminal-prosecutions-in-the-uk/

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Dax H 07 Jan 2020
In reply to cb294:

Yep company phone. 

Full story is I took a guy on from a prison outreach program in to a sales roll. Before going down he was in a 70k sales job , owned a property business registered overseas for tax reasons and living the high life minted from importing containers of week and coke. 

I took a chance on him as he convinced me that he put his past behind him and just wanted a chance to get back on his feet but no one would touch him due to his record. 

When he went on holiday his work email was copied to a spare email in my office, he was aware of this. My office jumped on once a day to deal with whatever might need dealing with.

When he came back from holiday I forgot to cancel the copy. 

3 weeks later he rang in sick on the Monday morning so I said take what time you need, it's no problem, Tuesday and Wednesday he text in and again I'm giving it the big health is more important than work bit.

Well on the Wednesday morning a customer rang me to say he had emailed some info but not had a reply and he needed a quote ASAP. I remembered I had forgotten to cancel the email copy so I logged in to find this mail and discovered the emails from one of my suppliers in Italy and the plane tickets they sent him to go there for an interview. Digging a bit deeper I found that he had been trying to email his personal email address with my customer database and other company information that he had access to as part of his sales job. I also found out that he was spending a lot of company time trying to

First phone call was to the supplier who confirmed that he signed in there on the Tuesday and Wednesday, second phone call was to EE who confirmed his work phone was in Manchester Airport at the right time for the flight.

Third phone call was to a HR consultant that I use to get the ball rolling to sack him. I didn't really need it because he was only with me for 9 months but I wanted to make sure everything was done correctly.

Had he booked some holiday time and not tried to steal my customer base we would have parted on good terms and I would have helped him out from a technical view point (good door opener but knew squat about the engineering side of the job) but throwing a sicky and trying to steal from me = see ya. 

I binned the supplier too and passed on 200k of sales to my competition because without this supplier I was unable to see them through and I wanted to make damn sure they didn't get the direct sales after I had invested about 10k in setting them up in the first place. 

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cb294 07 Jan 2020
In reply to Dax H:

Thanks, makes sense! Not only criminal, but also an amateur...

CB

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captain paranoia 08 Jan 2020
In reply to Bob Kemp:

Any cell-based mobile network needs to be able to perform cell handover, as you move from one cell to the next. So the network can track you, at least to the size of the cell.

You can always put the phone in airplane mode, turning off the mobile phone circuit, thus disconnecting you from the network.

Or, heaven forbid, turn your phone off.

Post edited at 00:51
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yorkshire_lad2 08 Jan 2020
In reply to Dax H:

+1 from me for taking the gamble of taking on someone who needed a helping hand (but than didn't reciprocate the courtesy, and sorry your gesture of goodwill turned out not well for you) and +1 for the excellent explanation.  People like the guy you took on should read what you've written: it's a cautionary tale for them, and those that might want to follow them.

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Bob Kemp 08 Jan 2020
In reply to captain paranoia:

In most cases this is probably right but these solutions could depend on the device and the user. Apparently it's possible to track phones via sensor data even when GPS and wifi are of. And turning your phone off doesn't work for some, mostly older, phones - you may need to remove the battery. And if you come to the attention of the NSA it may not make a difference either. Or maybe you have a Chinese phone.

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In reply to captain paranoia:

Regardless of what your network is monitoring for network connection services - most phones are constantly sending out signals for Bluetooth and Mac address functions. There is a growing amount of hardware on the market designed to analyse movements of phones for customer flow. 

There are a number of shopping centres which are using Mac receivers to show which doors people are using and how they move through the shopping centre.  The next step will be to adapt electronic advertising to respond to a persons movements.  

- Don't be surprised when you walk into a shopping centre and the first electronic advertising hoarding you see if strangely very relevant to your lifestyle/shopping choices (or more likely slightly different depending on which shop has paid the most e.g. if you went to ellis brigham on your last visit there will probably be an advert for snow and rock...…)

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wercat 08 Jan 2020
In reply to FactorXXX:

timewarp

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Rob Parsons 08 Jan 2020
In reply to Nempnett Thrubwell:

> Regardless of what your network is monitoring for network connection services - most phones are constantly sending out signals for Bluetooth and Mac address functions.

Re bluetooth: turn it off on your phone unless you're actively using it. (Saves power too.) That is: this is a conscious choice.

Re 'signals for Mac address functions': can you explain what you mean? Are you referring to searches for wifi networks?

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cb294 08 Jan 2020
In reply to Nempnett Thrubwell:

Precisely. Hence, bluetooth and wifi are off as default, and only turned on when required. Also, no apps are allowed location data, except of course map / navigation applications, but these are, by default, also turned off when not in use.

CB

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cb294 08 Jan 2020
In reply to Rob Parsons:

Ahh, two idiots, one idea...

CB

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captain paranoia 08 Jan 2020
In reply to Nempnett Thrubwell:

> Regardless of what your network is monitoring for network connection services - most phones are constantly sending out signals for Bluetooth and Mac address functions

Not if you have those functions turned off, they aren't (NFC, BT, WiFi & GSM).

If you have them turned on, then, yes, expect to be able to be tracked. Turning them off isn't hard. And, contrary to the tinfoil hat brigade, when you turn them off, they're off. When you turn your phone off, it's really off, barring the power switch monitor; the fact that your battery doesn't drain is pretty good evidence of that (as is the reduced drain when you disable NFC, BT, WiFi & GSM; the main reason I turn these functions off when I'm out & about). Actually, my phone doesn't have NFC capability, and I don't use any e-payment systems.

As for the 'the sensors will get you, too', good luck with that. The drift on silicon accelerometers is so poor, that you will rapidly (within seconds), drift out of position. Don't forget that they measure acceleration, so you need to do a double integral to get position; that means that any small DC error in measured acceleration very rapidly becomes large error in distance. If they didn't drift so badly, we'd be able to use them to provide a fused position fix with the GNSS receiver position, to fill in gaps in GNSS visibility, and counter the natural and urban canyon problems. Yes, I've done the measurements, and experimented with measures to correct this drift to enable this sensor fusion, in both vehicle and human platforms.

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Dax H 08 Jan 2020
In reply to yorkshire_lad2:

> +1 from me for taking the gamble of taking on someone who needed a helping hand 

Thank you. I came across the charity Tempus Novo on linked in and read about their success stories. Of 103 people they helped find a job in 2018 only 1 has returned to custody. Helping people in to work and helping them change their situation is great for the person, their family and society in general and though there is a risk involved it can gain you some very loyal employees.

I set another ex offender on in October ostensibly as a labourer but he is showing good aptitude so we have started training him up as a service engineer in the compressed Air and vacuum field. In the 5 years since his release he has done nothing but zero hour contract numpty jobs on minimum wage, he really seems to appreciate being on a fixed contract £10 per hour job with holiday and sick pay and the knowledge that his pay will go up in good jumps as his skills and understanding improve up to around 30 to 35k plus van with personal use in 3 or 4 years. (my field is very diverse and takes years to be even half proficient). 

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Bobling 08 Jan 2020
In reply to Dax H:

Dax, can I just take a moment to say I always enjoy reading your posts about running your business.  Illuminating!

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Dax H 09 Jan 2020
In reply to Bobling:

I don't know if that's a compliment or not I'm not a business man I'm a dyslexic bloke who left school with literally zero qualifications who ended up running a business employing currently 15 people and having contracts with water and power utilities (again not sure how I did that) and though I am very good at the practical side of things, the service and repair and designing new installations I'm totally winging it on the business side of things.

Don't get me wrong we are doing okay and have made a profit and expanded every year and the only debt is the mortgage on the buildings plus a bit of van finance but I feel I could do far better if I knew what I was doing as a managing director. 

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Bobling 09 Jan 2020
In reply to Dax H:

It's a compliment! I particularly like your descriptions of the cast of characters who come and work for your and your plain-speaking approaches to the various problems/opportunities they sometimes present.

It did occur to me after Gaucho-gate, that perhaps you don't really run a business at all but that this is just some elaborate UKC alternate life you have invented for yourself : )

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Roadrunner6 10 Jan 2020
In reply to Bob Kemp:

I doesn't really bother me, maybe it should.

In the US we pay by toll when we drive many high ways (just off plate recognition)so they always know where we drive too, all this data is collected. Likewise credit cards, they know where we are all the time.

But that's also a safety factor.

I also don't mind facebook and other free services doing it. We are using their platform for free, of course they will want to generate income off that traffic.

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Dax H 10 Jan 2020
In reply to Roadrunner6:

> I also don't mind facebook and other free services doing it. We are using their platform for free, of course they will want to generate income off that traffic.

I got an email today from Google with my 2019 Google maps report. Apparently I turned on location tracking sometime last year and there is all my movements, work, personal the lot. Where my phone went my tracking was active. 

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Pedro 13 Jan 2020
In reply to Bobling:

Goucho-gate ?

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Bobling 13 Jan 2020
In reply to Pedro:

Goucho (https://www.ukclimbing.com/user/profile.php?id=109730) - the very well regarded climber on this site who a recent thread has suggested might just be a fiction of someone's imagination.  NB this user has been reported to have died so think before posting.  The very long thread where all this happened has disappeared so perhaps best we don't discuss it further!

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Timmd 15 Jan 2020
In reply to Dax H:

> Don't get me wrong we are doing okay and have made a profit and expanded every year and the only debt is the mortgage on the buildings plus a bit of van finance but I feel I could do far better if I knew what I was doing as a managing director. 

That sounds okay. A fellow I know of who retired on 7 figures once said it's all about common sense, plus a bit of luck. 

Edit: He'd also quote somebody who used to say 'If half of the decisions I make during a day are the right ones, that's a good day, and if I know which ones those were, that's an even better one'

Post edited at 01:36
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Toerag 11:51 Thu
In reply to Dax H:

>  Don't get me wrong we are doing okay and have made a profit and expanded every year and the only debt is the mortgage on the buildings plus a bit of van finance but I feel I could do far better if I knew what I was doing as a managing director. 

You'd only end up doing complicated stuff for what? A bit more profit? More risk, more hassle, less control.  From reading your posts I can't see that improving your life - you're doing OK for yourself and you're able to do the altruistic things you do.  When you start getting into complex unintuitive management / financial techniques the fun goes out of it.

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BnB 12:59 Thu
In reply to Toerag:

> >  Don't get me wrong we are doing okay and have made a profit and expanded every year and the only debt is the mortgage on the buildings plus a bit of van finance but I feel I could do far better if I knew what I was doing as a managing director. 

> You'd only end up doing complicated stuff for what? A bit more profit? More risk, more hassle, less control.  From reading your posts I can't see that improving your life - you're doing OK for yourself and you're able to do the altruistic things you do.  When you start getting into complex unintuitive management / financial techniques the fun goes out of it.

Running a business isn't about unintuitive techniques, it's about making strategic decisions that create financial demands on you and have everyday consequences for your resources, then acting decisively and accurately on the former and conveying the latter to your people clearly and concisely.

As Timmd says a propos his acquaintance, much of it is common sense, but it takes a steady head that can handle daily reversals and a bold and positive mindset. And you need to delegate. From what Dax says, he might benefit from a right hand person who can expand his capabilities while affording him a little time to think more strategically.

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DancingOnRock 13:50 Thu
In reply to Nempnett Thrubwell:

They’ve been doing this on the underground for a while now to map people’s journeys and understand where they can make improvements to the train services.

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DancingOnRock 13:54 Thu
In reply to Dax H:

I’m fairly sure that you can’t track employees’ locations except in order to improve scheduling. You can find out where they are but you can’t use that in evidence when sacking them. 
 
You cannot track them outside working hours. So if he had called in sick he wasn’t at work. 

Post edited at 14:14
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Dax H 20:05 Thu
In reply to DancingOnRock:

That is a valid point that I will counter by saying I was not tracking the person, I was tracking the phone and the I pad that is the property of my company. 

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Dax H 20:10 Thu
In reply to BnB:

>  And you need to delegate. From what Dax says, he might benefit from a right hand person who can expand his capabilities while affording him a little time to think more strategically.

What I really need is someone to run my business whilst I concentrate on the fun parts, working on site fixing things and the occasional bit of problem solving and R&D. 

That requires a lot more money though and I'm not driven enough to earn that level of money. 

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DancingOnRock 21:26 Thu
In reply to Dax H:

It’s not the tracking that’s the issue. It’s the use of the tracking data that’s the issue. 

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Archy Styrigg 21:35 Thu
In reply to Dax H:

Whether you were in the right or not, using/carrying the company phone whilst throwing a sicky, he probably deserves letting go for his numptyness alone

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BnB 08:44 Fri
In reply to Dax H:

> What I really need is someone to run my business whilst I concentrate on the fun parts, working on site fixing things and the occasional bit of problem solving and R&D. 

That's precisely what my right-hand persons have done for me while I swan about on vDiffs. Why can’t they for you?

> That requires a lot more money though and I'm not driven enough to earn that level of money. 

Fair enough but the drive would need to come from your no 2, not you, don’t you think? And that might make you money.

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morpcat 22:39 Fri
In reply to Durbs:

> Seems legit for me assuming it was a company phone.

> Same as another chap who made the news I think who got fired for comments within a "personal" skype chat that was taking place on his work computer.

> That it was a personal chat didn't matter - the company owned the computer, same as the company owns the mobile. It's their property, they're allowed to know where it is, and what it's been used for.

Actually, this is not OK. The supporting documentation for GDPR highlights that it is now a reasonable expectation that employees will use a company computer to conduct some personal affairs and that they are to be afforded a right to privacy. For example, were I a system administrator I would not be allowed to install automated screen capture software or keyloggers across the business (which I might want to do to protect against misuse of systems and leaking of confidential data) as it would capture things like someone logging into their online banking. Equally I can't turn on "always on" recording of company phone systems or internet browsing history. There are exceptions, for example if I had a particular system that was infrequently accessed and needed a higher security bar, but in general blanket tracking of company phones and computers issued to individuals is no longer legal except with some significant caveats. Interestingly asking for consent for tracking is a grey area. The advise I received was that employees would be under pressure to consent for fear of not complying with the company's expectations, and so could easily argue that free consent was not given.

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Duncan Bourne 08:47 Sat
In reply to Durbs:

> Seems legit for me assuming it was a company phone.

Not without consent. Same with trackers in vans.

> Same as another chap who made the news I think who got fired for comments within a "personal" skype chat that was taking place on his work computer.

> That it was a personal chat didn't matter - the company owned the computer, same as the company owns the mobile. It's their property, they're allowed to know where it is, and what it's been used for.

This is a two issue thing.

1) The use of company equipment for non-work purposes. Generally most companies allow some personal use of their equipment during break times and other non-work periods (same as with a company car). The use of such equipment in works time may consitute a disciplinary offence, as would using it beyond the established remite or for illegal purposes.

2) The nature of the comments. If it is deemed that their comments draw the company into disrepute, even if on their own phone or computer, then that may consitute a disciplinary offence

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Dax H 10:16 Sat
In reply to Duncan Bourne:

> Not without consent. Same with trackers in vans.

Well if he wants to take me to a tribunal he can crack on. Never even considered checking the location of the phone for any other employees, mainly because none of them have ever thrown a sicky and had their flight tickets plus itinerary for the visit and interview sent to their work email. 

We have trackers on all our vans (mine included), all the guys have signed to say it fine. Not like they had much of a choice though to be honest, you can't be a mobile service engineer without having a van unless they want to leave it at work and make their own way to work and back both during normal hours and whilst on 24/7 call. 

> This is a two issue thing.

> 1) The use of company equipment for non-work purposes. Generally most companies allow some personal use of their equipment during break times and other non-work periods (same as with a company car). The use of such equipment in works time may consitute a disciplinary offence, as would using it beyond the established remite or for illegal purposes.

This comes down to my not taking the piss rule. On a break, do what you like, the odd personal call during working time, fine. I did ultimately let someone go due to personal calls and text messages though but he was taking the piss, every few seconds his phone was beeping and he was replying, I gave him warning after warning but apparently his mum asking what he wanted for tea and sorting out the evening with his girlfriend was more important that work.

I ran in to him years later in a management position at one of my larger customers and he actually thanked me for letting him go. Apparently it was a wake up call and made him pull his socks up. Being a nice guy I let him finish his business administration course before letting him go and that qualification plus the resolve to work rather than toss it off set him up well in life. 

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Duncan Bourne 14:36 Sat
In reply to Dax H:

Van trackers are pretty standard for delivery services but it has to be with the knowledge of the driver.

In the UK, the primary rule is that vehicle tracking is legal as long as drivers and other employees know they are being tracked, this means that businesses are allowed to install tracking devices on their vehicle fleet, but they must inform all of their personnel immediately and acquire consent for collecting data. There are no exceptions to this law, other than in law enforcement and government agencies in which covert trackers may be needed for investigations.

The Information Commissioner’s Code of Practice for Employees is clear on how the employee should be treated; it is clearly stated that the employee has the right to know about any methods used to monitor them. It also favours methods with the least intrusion of privacy and suggests that employees should only be monitored during working hours, with the option of switching off surveillance tools during private time.

You will be within the law to track vehicles solely used for business tasks, provided the driver is aware of the GPS tracking device. You are allowed to monitor mileage, driver behaviour, hours on the road, and the routes used. Almost anything goes here, as long as the vehicle is designated for business use. Personal tracking devices must only be used with consent from the person being tracked.

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DancingOnRock 13:14 Sun
In reply to Duncan Bourne:

Exactly. And the tracking can only be used for information gathering purposes. It’s very easy for GPS and other technology to mis-report locations and for it to fail in other ways. 
 

Being tracked while driving a vehicle can also lead to dangerous behaviours, especially if the employee feels they are under pressure. 
 

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rj_townsend 14:20 Sun
In reply to DancingOnRock:

> Being tracked while driving a vehicle can also lead to dangerous behaviours, especially if the employee feels they are under pressure. 

It can also promote positive behaviours, such as calmer, more efficient driving, reduced speeding and better adherence to breaks.

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DancingOnRock 14:52 Sun
In reply to rj_townsend:

Depends on the individual and it depends on the company management behaviours. 
 

My company have mobile engineers, we have a good management structure and policies but we still have engineers who are very wary of the company talking the talk. 
 

I also know a long distance lorry driver who says driver bullying is rife within the industry.

If you allowed businesses to sack people based on tracking data, enough businesses would do it for it to be detrimental. The roads are dangerous enough without putting drivers under pressure. 

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