Tracking devices in cell phones can help locate users in an emergency, including children.

But they can also help stalkers follow domestic abuse victims, reports the Wall Street Journal (sub. req.).

Because federal law allows cell phone companies to turn over location information to police without a warrant, the tracking devices are easy to misuse, the newspaper says. Plus, many cell phone carriers offer location information to authorized users as a service, which often can be activated with a simple phone call. And for those with computer and cellular expertise, cell phone users can be tracked without a carrier's cooperation so long as the expert has the target's phone number.

At least one cell phone company routinely notifies subjects they are being tracked and carriers cooperate with law enforcement to stop tracking users if they are notified the service is being misused. But many victims don't realize that they are being stalked via their cell phones. This is such a common issue that a women's shelter operator based in New Hampshire routinely disables all residents' cell phones to prevent tracking, the Journal reports.

The global positioning systems contained in most cell phones also do not work when the phone is shut off. But as soon as it is turned on, the GPS reactivates.

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