There are several ways someone can track you with GPS:
1. Your phone
2. External GPS Hardware
3. GPS software on your laptop or phone
Your phone: Cell phone networks have been designed to identify locations of cellular users since the late 1990’s. This was part of a federal mandate to help find citizens in emergency situations and has already saved many lives. At the same time, it introduces a potential tool for invasion of privacy.
The law is called “E911” or Enhanced 911 Wireless Services. To learn more, visit the Federal Communication Commission here.
Realistically, there is little you can do to avoid the Enhanced 911 Wireless Service law. You always have the option of turning off your cell phone or not carrying it with you.
GPS hardware and software: This technology has flooded the market in recent years, creating a much more realistic concern. These GPS trackers (uLocate Trackem, Whereify Wireless) allow a third party to physically install software or a chip on your cell phone and then monitor your geographic location from any PC with complimentary software.
More specifically, some programs will not only allow for mapping of location, but will create a real time map or a summary of your movement including stop duration, etc…
The GPS Tracker feature is becoming increasingly common in the market, as a safety feature for individuals wishing to know the whereabouts of their children, partner, or family members. Similar to “E911”, as a safety feature or as a tool of convenience GPS technology is truly useful. However, it introduces a real tool for the invasion of privacy.
A Word on Privacy and Employers:
In a recent American Management Association (AMA) study, employers have been slow to adopt emerging monitoring/surveillance technologies to help track employee productivity and movement. Employers who use Assisted Global Positioning or Global Positioning Systems satellite technology are in the minority, with only 5% using GPS to monitor cell phones; 8% using GPS to track company vehicles; and 8% using GPS to monitor employee ID/Smartcards.
So if you have a company-issued telephone, it is possible there is GPS tracker software pre-installed. They could be monitoring your locations during and after work. Your consent would be implicit in your working for them and accepting a company issued phone. Yikes!
You can minimize the threat of someone using GPS to track you by:
- Monitoring any new or unknown software on your phone or laptop. If there’s something new or unknown, research it. Although some spyware will not show up as a program on the phone, some will.
- Monitoring any new or unknown hardware on your phone or laptop. If it’s a physical GPS tracker, check under the battery cover or in the “nooks and crannies” of the phone.
- Check with your phone service provider if your account is set up with a tracker/monitor feature. Perhaps a spouse who has access to the account (or manages the finances) set it up, or a third party impersonated you to add the feature to the account.
- If you think someone is interested in tracking you, be smart and don’t physically leave your phone for too long. Many of these programs need arm’s reach installation to get onto your phone.
- If you think a loved one or friend is interested in tracking you: try talking to them about whatever issues revolve around them possibly wishing to track you! (“Good communication” often equals “peace of mind”.)
- In regards to a work phone, leave the phone at home when you’re not “on-call”.
- Turn your phone off. (Warning, this will not work for GPS hardware, only software!)
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