With so many households eliminating landline phones, the volume of 911 calls from cell phones is rapidly increasing. Callers may not be aware that the current technology to detect the location of a wireless phone is only accurate within 164 to 984 feet. This includes both latitude and longitude. For example, if a 911 call came from within a high-rise building, first responders are unable to determine the floor or sometimes even the building where the 911 call originated.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is proposing new rules for cell carriers to help improve the accuracy of location information transmitted with 911 calls. The proposal asks wireless providers to meet interim location accuracy metrics that would be sufficient to identify the building and deliver vertical location information that would enable first responders to identify the building floor level.
In the long term, the FCC is seeking to develop more granular indoor location accuracy standards that would require identification of the specific room, office, or apartment where a wireless 911 call is made.
Unfortunately, the major cell carriers as well as CTIA – The Wireless Association are opposing the proposed changes. Cell carriers argue that the technology does not currently exist to meet the new rules. Privacy advocates have expressed concern with the proposed changes and how the location information might be used outside of emergency response.
We certainly hope that both the cell carriers and the FCC can agree upon achievable goals that will help first responders quickly and accurately locate citizens in need of help.
There is an important debate taking place regarding the growing trend of encrypting law enforcement radio transmissions.
On one side you have law enforcement agencies insisting on encryption to prevent criminals from monitoring transmissions and protect the safety of officers.
On the other side you have the media and the general public arguing for right of access to information transmitted over the public airwaves.
While easily accessible smart phone apps and scanners can help the general public to hear when a traffic accident blocks a major intersection, it can also enable criminals to determine when and where officers may be located.
Some states already have legislation in place that allows encryption on emergency communication. Law enforcement agencies can then choose to provide the media and other agencies with an encryption key to restrict access to radio transmissions.
What do you think? Should law enforcement restrict access to its transmissions?