FlightAware Discussions

FlightAware MLAT Network Announcement

Mode S observations, or actual locations via MLAT?

The other websites I know of that operate their own MLAT service also respect blocking requests.

There are quite a few planes showing on planefinder.net (they do MLAT) that are not visible on FA due to “request from the owner/operator”. Not sure if they’re MLAT, but it would appear they must be at least working off a different list than FA…?

I believe there are other private “members only” sites doing unfiltered MLAT. At least I know of at least two in the UK. I don’t believe the bar for “membership” on these sites is very high, you just have to send them an email.

Obviously, FA can do what they feel they need to do in order to protect themselves, not really arguing with that, just trying to make sense of it all… clearly it’s a complex area, and is a bit like the “wild west” out there.

In checking the recent chat forums on a US-based site that “exchanges ADSB” data, (and might be that website,) the site owner posted this:

Guess how many times I have been contacted by the US military or US law enforcement – exactly zero.

Seems to me, the first step would be to ask nicely! I’ve found that usually works. The alternative interpretation is that this issue is not being driven by military or law enforcement, but rather commercial interests.

Other thoughts? What am I missing here?

Lack of investment and risk.

I can’t speak to the validity of any claims other than my own, but if you believe that statement to be true, perhaps the folks pushing for this change are smart enough to talk to the source of the data rather than a re-distributor whose self-proclaimed sole purpose is to not filter the data. Also, the statement you quote is oddly limited to the US and I’m not sure why – the issues extend far beyond that.

Regardless, you can choose to believe me or not, but I think the notion that there aren’t active concerns in this arena from LE/mil/etc is ridiculous, clearly evidenced by similar policies on other sites that aren’t implemented for fun and are well documented/discussed elsewhere.

Well I appreciate FA feeding back scrambled data rather than nothing at all for protected flights. It keeps those owners happy and, for the rare case when I really care “what’s that scrambled mlat flight overhead,” it’s often not too hard to figure out what local Mode-S data it corresponds to.

So this confirms something I’d hoped - as people providing the data we will see both the scrambled and non scrambled plane since we’re pulling it out of the air ourselves? Sounds like I won’t be missing anything I’m interested in as it is but I just wanted to confirm.

I must admit that I am very disappointed with the actions that you are taking. I can only assume that you have had a large amount of pressure from some ‘Corporate Players’.
Here in the UK, the military transmit all the time but when they are on operations or exercises the just switch off so therefore cannot be tracked. The USAF go a step further and use swappable pods so that you cannot tie down an ICAO code to a particular aircraft and need to id the type used by their callsign. So security isn’t the issue here!!
Corporations on the other hand, that is a whole new ball game. They are worried that if their aircraft can be tracked they could lose out on a deal somewhere (company a sees company b’s Lear at an airport near company c’s location and think “Oh is company c ripe for takeover?”)
If I was interested in following a particular company’s jet around, I could do it quite easily without the need for ADSB!
As my interest is in military aircraft, I will have to consider if it is worthwhile contributing data to your site if I am getting no, or false, information back!!

As you’re running PiAware 2.1 you should already be able to make that decision based on the mlat data you’ve been seeing over the last week - it will not include any anonymised results, they will be being dropped entirely.

If you were running 3.0, the anonymized results are clearly flagged as such (mlat-client generates them as DF18 CF=5 messages, which indicates that the message is using a non-iCAO address type e.g. an anonymized 24-bit address or a surface vehicle / fixed obstruction address). You should be able to filter those out easily if you are worried about confusing them with real addresses.

As you’re running PiAware 2.1 you should already be able to make that decision based on the mlat data you’ve been seeing over the last week - it will not include any anonymised results, they will be being dropped entirely.

Finally I know the difference between Piaware 2 and 3 - couldn’t find it easily before.

[You should be able to filter those out easily if you are worried about confusing them with real addresses.

I don’t think he’s bothered about confusing them with real addresses, more about contributing data but getting obfuscated stuff back.[/quote]

It is mentioned in the announcement post, but perhaps if could be clearer.

[quote][You should be able to filter those out easily if you are worried about confusing them with real addresses.

I don’t think he’s bothered about confusing them with real addresses, more about contributing data but getting obfuscated stuff back.

Well, the options are: contribute data and get a mix of clear and obfuscated results, contribute data and use the clear results only (ignore the obfuscated results, they are easily identified as such), or don’t contribute data and don’t get any results. He seemed worried about getting “no, or false information” back, which isn’t what happens.

FWIW in the UK I see very few anonymized results (and I have not seen an anonymized military result yet)[/quote]

Well let me start off by saying I am a 38 year veteran Law Enforcement Executive with Pilots License and several endorsements.

I cannot remember when the last time ANY public safety aircraft was brought down or evaded due to data from Radar or ADSB. You as a citizen cannot stop your registration on your tag being blocked or the low level location on your cellphones. It boils down to two things: 1) is money from the powerful who can dictate the laws as they would like to have applied to them, 2) By blocking it prevents the average taxpayer from monitoring what is freely available to keep government in check. I do not have as much as a problem with corporate aircraft being blocked competitively as long as they do not contract with any government agency.

But to have any publicly funded (regardless of private / corporate /government) aircraft blocked is an absolute red flag. I know the games that are played and what gets done by them. Take home patrol units were implemented under the Philidelphia plan to thwart crime because of the increased presence of marked cars. (I do not know of any officer with a take home vehicle who has passed on the program because of “security” concerns with it parked outside his or her home and family.

This blanket rule of Homeland Security was purposely designed to conceal government, claim exemption, and become the secret squirrel game. I call BS on any of it.

Recently we would never have uncovered a private government contracted company medical helicopter service from being out of the contracted service area by hours transporting transfers to other hospitals. Because there is big money in transfers. It was through ADSB and yes they claimed the ol Homeland Security Schtick until a Judge suppressed that and ordered the records released and ADSB data applicable. Basically the government was paying for an assumption of peceived protection with in fact they aircraft was out of town five and six counties out unavailable.

IT is crap like this that absolutely mandates the open information. And if you want to carry the Homeland Security farce farther then might as well block all aircraft because there are so many aerial attacts that happen on US Soil each and everyday because the bad guys sit for hours and analyse the data.

Wake up and quit allowing government to remove and control what our forefathers fought for. The worst ever statement that sends chills is the old saying “RELAX!, We are from the government and are here to help” If you ever in your lifetime (Don’t laugh it is closer than you all think) hear such a line, RUN LIKE HELL.

And by the way it is not the companies like FlightAware or others that are the issue so do not chastise them. They are most in tune with the proposals and such from our illustrious leaders. Instead climb your Senator and Representatives rear ends (bet you never talk to a single one of them because they too are now insulated) and demand this crap stop. If we do not start putting considerable pressure on them they have free reign to do whatever they want. Like they are now.

Daniel, can you expand on this? What is the timeline and what are the requirements?

Personally I’m close to a military field and I’d like to keep having access to the data I personally bring into the FlightAware network. That seems fair doesn’t it?

You do. Just don’t forward MLAT data to other networks. Your direct ADS-B targets are all you and can do whatever you want.

You’ll love this:


I’d rather know about this stuff than not, and make it as hard as possible for the govt to hide it… Solely my own opinion…

Yes, but if you put MLAT front and center, laws will get written which will make watching these very bad people even harder. Public attention will be misplaced on you and MLAT/ADS-B tracking, instead of the real problem of the govt and private companies spying on everyone.


Hmm… I’m not so sure about that. Surely Police Scanner apps for smartphones pose much more of a problem, yet the govt has been unable to pass a law against these. Listening to airband VHF frequencies, and LiveATC is legal, so I’m not sure receiving the 1090Mhz band is that much different. I would think it would be an uphill battle to legislate against that. Do you have any leads or information (preferably URLs) that such legislation is even being considered? Who would be the “anti-legislation” lobbying group that would lobby for the other side?

I believe the answer to your questions is already in this thread. FA didn’t change this for fun.

They probably don’t want this debate here, but…

The “answers” you mention are not supported by evidence or references - that’s what I am questioning. Maybe it’s out there, but I just haven’t seen it and that’s why I’m asking. I am legitimately trying to educate myself on this issue.

Nobody has ever provided any evidence that legislation is even under consideration, and if it were, the odds that such legislation could pass. I realize they didn’t change this for fun, but unless I see evidence, I’m not sure that the stated reason is valid or even likely. The stated reason may be a small part, but I believe there are many other considerations.

Again, I’ll go back to the “police scanner” apps. I’m sure the cops don’t like them, but these have been around for years and there has been no national legislation enacted. Do they have uses for criminals? Sure. Do they also have lots of legitimate uses? Absolutely.

Universal and Disney tried to make VCRs illegal when they first came out as well. That didn’t work out so well either.

In Canada:

(1) Police radio to go silent as Toronto cops move toward encrypted communications.
thestar.com/news/gta/2015/0 … tions.html

(2) Encryption actually protects law-abiding Canadians
thestar.com/opinion/comment … dians.html

(3) Why Canada isn’t having a policy debate over encryption
theglobeandmail.com/technolo … e28859991/