In the article “GPS, The Good and The Bad” we looked at both sides of GPS tracking. We saw that it can be used for a variety of beneficial activities like finding your location on a map to help you navigate to a specific destination. However, the same technology that allows you to track yourself can allow others to track you. So in today’s closer look we are going to checkout ways your phone may be tracked, who might be tracking you, and how to protect yourself.
Probably the most common way that your phones location can be tracked by someone else is if an app that has been installed is transmitting your location. Some apps may just require your location to help provide relevant local content, such as an app that suggests restaurants. It wouldn’t be a very useful app if all the suggestions were miles and miles away, so it takes your GPS location to give find options that are close to you. While it is important for you to know which apps are requesting your location, and determine yourself if you are comfortable with a company knowing your location at all times, we are more interested in apps that are specifically for tracking your location and allowing it to be viewed by others.
One such tracking software is ePhoneTracker. This software can be installed on any phone and runs invisibly in the background as long as the phone is on. It won’t even show up in the running applications menu of your phone! Once on your phone the app tracks everything your phone does. Text messages, call history, emails sent and received, what websites you visit, your contacts, and your GPS location, all get logged and sent to an email address to be viewed remotely. Software like this can be used in a few different ways and we are going to focus on the GPS tracking capability. Parents might use it to track their children’s location to make sure they get to school safely or that they aren’t talking to anyone they shouldn’t be. For parents of young kids I can see this being used as a tool to ensure safety more than an invasion of privacy. But the difference between monitoring for safety concerns and spying is a fine line. At what age does tracking your kids phone become spying? If you are just keeping track of a person’s location to make sure they are safe why does the app need to be so hidden? If you wanted to keep track of your spouse’s location while they were away on a business trip or commuting to work you could use one of many other more transparent methods of keeping tabs of their location. There are many other apps for keeping tabs on someone’s whereabouts without being sneaky about it.
An app like ePhoneTracker takes GPS location from a safety tool to a spying method. If you are tracking someone without their knowledge it’s because you don’t trust them to tell you where they are. Maybe you think your teenager isn’t actually going to a friend’s house, or the library like they said they were. Maybe you think your spouse isn’t being faithful and you want to know the truth. Just because you suspect someone of wrongdoing you don’t have the right to invade their privacy. Would you want someone spying on you?
GPS isn’t the only way to track a phones location. Service providers are constantly receiving location updates from your phone for the purpose of delivering phone calls and other data. Most carriers offer a family locator service that can be used to follow the location of any phone on the family plan. Connecting to open wifi networks will update your phones location, even if you don’t have GPS or a data plan.
So how can you avoid being tracked? The best solution is to know what is on your phone. When installing a new app read what it is requesting access to and don’t install it if you are unsure what something means! You can always contact the developers to get a clearer understanding of why an app needs certain information, as well as how/where the data is being stored. In some apps you turn off the GPS functionality, although it can be hard to find sometimes. Keeping your phone close or using a login password to make sure other people can’t install apps without you knowing is also a great way to keep your information private. You should also be cautious about who knows your Google or Apple IDs because they can be used to install apps remotely to your phone! Another surefire way to know your phone can’t be tracked is to use a RF&RFID blocking case. This way no signal is going to or from your phone and you can go about your life without looking over your shoulder.