Blufax sounds like some kind of faxing service, but it’s actually a high-tech system San Diego’s government is using to track smartphones.
On the federal level, officials have spent millions of dollars on these devices, and we’re seeing use crop up in more and more cities – San Diego included. Here’s how Blufax systems track phones without being detected, how the government is using it today and what might be some areas of concern.
Modern phones have tiny radios in them to connect to other devices wirelessly. These radios send out beacons like radar pings on a submarine. Each ping sends a unique sequence of letters and numbers called a MAC ID. By listening for that beacon, computers can record which devices are nearby. A typical smartphone has a radio to connect to cell phone towers, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.
Blufax is a sensor system used to detect a device with its Bluetooth capability turned on, such as a smartphone or headset.