The Technium

As Much Privacy As You Can Afford

What we call privacy — the non-disclosure or transmission of information — is ultimately a matter of economics. To remain hidden in a connected world will cost money. You can always disconnect, but while connected you will be transparent. Under this regime transparency is cheap and ubiquitous, while opacity expensive.

Apparently there is a service that will provide the current location of any cell phone for $95. You give Best411 the phone number you seek and $95 and then they will tell you where that cell phone is located is between 9am and 5pm CST.


How is this possible? Obviously the cell phone company knows because it has to track your cell in order to deliver calls. But how does Best411 know? They claim:

We are a state-licensed private investigative agency and, as such, have access to many data bases that the general public is not permitted to access.

That doesn’t really explain the deal, or the legality, or the process. My immediate question is: Why does it cost so much? Why $95? Technologically this is a trivial query. It’s real cost is about zero. I wonder who or what is setting the price?

Second question: If I were willing to pay $100 could I prevent Best411 from tracking me? How much would it cost to have my location “unlisted”?

I am really asking the larger question of how expensive will it become to be unlocateble in the location-aware mobile future?

If anyone knows how Best411 and their kin work, I’d love to hear about it. I am sure it is sleazy, but is there any reason it will remain marginal?


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