Does Hellotracks track phone numbers or phones?

Often there is confusion surrounding technology and how it actually works versus how it works in pop-culture (e.g. movies). One question we get here at Hellotracks, on a regular basis, is individuals looking to track someone else based on their phone number or on the flip-side, someone is concerned that they can be tracked by just their phone number. In the simplest way possible to explain, this is not really a process. There are methods that you can track phone numbers via databases of the service providers of said phone number along with triangulation methods from when it was last used in a telecommunications network. However, that is way beyond the scope of this article and in reality, it is impossible to track a phone’s exact location based solely on the phone number alone. To even track a phone via a phone number during an actual call (i.e. what you see in the movies) requires some seriously advanced resources, which are neither readily available nor legal for civilian use in most countries. This is why only well-funded police and national security agencies can even attempt to do this and even then it is a struggle to do this with extreme accuracy. Not to mention some of the legal hand-wringing that comes before and after the fact. 

So then how does Hellotracks actually track phone numbers? 

In short, we don't track phone numbers, we track smartphones or devices via the GPS chips that are present in all phones and tablets made today. These chips are associated with the phone number via the device itself, yet GPS chips are wholly separate from the phone number. In other words, GPS tracking is distinctly different from tracking a phone number. It can be helpful to think of an example, like find my iPhone for iOS when you have misplaced your device. This service operates under the same principle of tracking a GPS receiver, Apple is not tracking your phone number, they are tracking a small chip that is within the physical hardware of the phone itself. The really cool thing is that GPS chips can be actively tracked even when the internet is off, but generally only when you ask a software or service to do so. They cannot be tracked if the phone or device itself is turned off as they need a power source to operate. That is why you can simply turn off tracking in Hellotrack with a simple tap of the button on service, when you turn off 'Active' tracking, you are telling the Hellotracks software that you do not want your GPS chip to tell Hellotracks to track where you are.  

*Note: Below is some more information that may clear up some misunderstanding of how tracking works offline

For mobile devices (smartphones, etc.) you can get apps that will contain all the maps for your region within themselves so they can use the GPS chip and use their internal maps to show you your location. This is very useful when you are in areas that do not have any internet access, so you have your own maps:

  • Without internet access, the built-in navigation app on smartphones will simply show you a blank display and your GPS signal because they do not have a way to download a map of your area.
  • If you happen to launch your smartphone navigation app to get your location when you have internet access, the app will temporarily cache the local map, if you put your smartphone to sleep and then travel to an area that does not have internet access, then launching your navigation app will calculate your new location. If it happens to be within the range of the map that it had recently cached then it will show you a map for that area.
  • This caching mechanism has fooled many users into thinking that mobile navigation is erratic, but in fact, it is perfectly logical from a systems point of view

Hopefully, that clears up some common misunderstanding surrounding the tracking of phones and other smart devices in today's world. 

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