I have heard that by law (assuming US law) all modern laptops must have built in GPS. Presumably than, your laptop could be tracked down if it were stolen. This seems unrealistic, however, I've read that there are similar laws for modern cell phones (used for calling 911). In the world of TV fiction, I have seen this for phones and laptops, both of which could be remotely activated and then located. It seems logistically much more difficult for laptops than cell phones. Is there any truth to this whatsoever?
Cell-phone wise, that is indeed the case (a FCC rule). From PCWorld: :
Mobile phone companies are under orders from the U.S. Federal Communications Commission to incorporate some kind of location-reporting technology into cellular phones. Dubbed E-911, or enhanced 911, the communication initiative is meant to give law enforcement and emergency services personnel a way to find people calling 911 from mobile phones when callers don't know where they are or are unable to say.
No carrier was able to make an October deadline to fully implement E-911. The FCC issued waivers permitting carriers to add location-detection services to new phones over time, so that 95 percent of all mobile phones are compliant with E-911 rules by 2005.
More details from Wikipedia:
The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has several requirements applicable to wireless or mobile telephones:
- Basic 911: All 911 calls must be relayed to a call center, regardless of whether the mobile phone user is a customer of the network being used.
- E911 Phase 1: Wireless network operators must identify the phone number and cell phone tower used by callers, within six minutes of a request by a PSAP.
- E911 Phase 2 95% of a network operator's in-service phones must be E911 compliant ("location capable") by December 31, 2005. (Several carriers missed this deadline, and were fined by the FCC.) Wireless network operators must provide the latitude and longitude of callers within 300 meters, within six minutes of a request by a PSAP. Accuracy rates must meet FCC standards on average within any given participating PSAP service area by September 11, 2012 (deferred from September 11, 2008).
Location information is not only transmitted to the call center for the purpose of sending emergency services to the scene of the incident, it is used by the wireless network operator to determine to which PSAP to route the call.
Please note that GPS specifically is NOT required - merely some means of location. Wikipedia again:
To locate a mobile telephone geographically, there are two general approaches. One is to use some form of radiolocation from the cellular network, and the other is to use a Global Positioning System receiver built into the phone itself. Both approaches are described by the Radio resource location services protocol (LCS protocol).
NOTE: To the best of my knowledge, there are no similar rules for laptops, since they are done for 911 purposes and laptops aren't very suitable for that purpose due to low # of people owning them. So there's no point.