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Is your cell phone tower watching you? Cell phone base stations as surveillance radar illuminators

A study of the practicality of using signals from cell phone
towers as -effectively- as radar.

Some background - I live in Japan and there are several
English-language newspapers here, mostly connected
with one of the big Japanese daily newspapers.

Most of these publish (once a week or so) some excerpts
from an American or British newspaper. About four years
ago there was an article, I think from the Observer (UK)
that described such a system and said it was already being
secretly implemented in Britain by the military (as if Brits
weren't surveilled enough).

The article suggested that the system wasn't (then, anyway)
capable of great resolution, but could pick out people and
vehicles in motion, including those within at least some
types of structures.

It was a full page article and I saved it, but subsequently
lost it somehow. I never saw any other reference to such a
system, but a few years later when news came out about
the Taliban enforcing a nighttime shutdown of cell phone
networks I got to wondering and searching and found the
reference to the following article.

Which I thought I had lost again, but found it again the other
day. So, are you paranoid - or are you paranoid *enough*?


Applications of passive surveillance radar system using cell phone base station illuminators

Hongbo Sun; Tan, D.K.P.; Yilong Lu; Lesturgie, M.;
Temasek Labs., Nanyang Technol. Univ., Singapore, Singapore

This paper appears in: Aerospace and Electronic Systems Magazine, IEEE
Issue Date: March 2010
Volume: 25 Issue:3


The networks of cell phone base stations not only provide continuous service for mobile communications users but also offer abundant illuminator resources for passive surveillance radar systems. This extensively explores the potential applications of passive surveillance radar using cell phone base station signals for various scenarios such as ground traffic monitoring, coastal and air surveillance, and through-the-wall motion detections These promising experimental results demonstrated that such systems can be an attractive, low-cost alternative solution for various applications and prospectively as a complement to traditional active radar systems.


ISSN : 0885-8985
INSPEC Accession Number: 11340786
Digital Object Identifier : 10.1109/MAES.2010.5463951
Date of Current Version : 13 May 2010
Issue Date : March 2010

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bump for techie input

anyone here conversant enough with the technology
involved to assess - anyone with an IEEE membership
or university account that can access the full article?

Bump because-

Well, cell phone towers may actually be being used as
look-through-walls capable real time imaging surveillance
devices and no one - except maybe the people doing it
and the Taliban - seem to be aware that this even a possibility.

It was pointed out to me that at the frequency that most
cell phone systems operate at, the wavelength is so long
(about one meter) that a return from it would be pretty useless
for imaging. But 4G systems are close to 3Ghz and that brings
it down to around 1/10 of a meter - say, 4 inches..

Maybe close enough for government work.