Let’s start this off by stating the obvious: yes, location data can be immensely helpful at times:• Using Google Maps to find your way around a new city, or Waze to set a destination and use your phone like a GPS device• Finding your phone in case it’s lost or stolen (using similar functions by Google or Apple)• Transmitting your location in case of an emergency (such as a car accident or home invasion incident)
Nobody doubts the usefulness of these features. The problem is that people never seem to turn off location data for any app once it’s served its purpose. So you end up in situations like this math teacher that was tracked by an app on her phone.
As the New York Times reported, her entire route for the day was tracked. From a Weight Watchers meeting, to a dermatologist procedure, hiking with her dog, all the way back to an ex-boyfriend’s place. Naturally, all this data was sold off without her knowledge. And all she wanted to do was keep track of her jogging routes.
Good Uses for Bad Reasons
At the risk of sounding like one of those millennial bashingnews articles, this Wired article sounds exactly like the sort of problem a couple of tech-obsessed millennials would have. The author goes to great lengths to explain why he and his partner check each-other’s location at all times – perhaps exaggerated for journalistic purposes, perhaps not.
Seriously, just read this part: It’s not like I set out to monitor someone’s whereabouts at all times. This technology came to me, slithering into my phone as a subfeature of other services.
How about simply… not using those features in the first place? “This technology came to me” sounds like the poorest excusefor self-control issues – which, to be fair, the author does recognize.
Then again, the piece does justice to its title. It reveals the anxiety problems, the overthinking that happens when we have such immediate access to our loved ones’ location data. It sendsus into overdrive if they deviate from the “default route” we attribute them, let alone if the app stops working for any technical reason (like a simple dead battery in the Wired case).
The worst part is that switching off location data or deleting the apps in question does nothing to quell these fears. Especially after becoming so accustomed to knowing where our loved ones are at all times.
High-Tech Domestic Abuse
Have you ever heard of stalkerware? It’s exactly what it sounds like – a type of spyware that tracks the victim’s every behavior. The difference between this and “regular” class spyware is its installation process – usually done by someone close to the victim, who also has physical access to their phone.
As you may have guessed, this type of software is often used by paranoid partners who take it to a dangerous degree. Or vengeful exes that want to keep track of the victims’ calls, texts, emails, browsing history… You can see where this is going.
A major problem with such apps – that many reports have pointed out – is that they are often marketed for legitimate uses, such as keeping track of a stolen phone or as a parental control app with built-in location tracking. The FTC has begun fighting back against such deceitful marketing practices.
Even location-sharing features from apps like Find My Friends or Google Maps can be exploited in harmful ways. Just imagine the situation of the boyfriend looking out for his girlfriend’s safety in the section above – but with some jealousy added intothe mix.
Anti-virus companies like Kaspersky Lab have only recently begun marking stalkerware apps as malware, after talks with Eva Galperin, head of cybersecurity for the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Although other cybersecurity companies like Symantec, Malwarebytes and Lookout have said their software has been tackling this threat for years as part of anti-spyware efforts.
Your crazy ex or jealous spouse might not be the only onesusing tracking tech and social media location data to study your daily routines. Take this instance of an Uber driver becoming a stalker to a woman in Boston after she refused his coffee invitation.
Or simply consider that a boss “spying” on their employees – even after-hours – is not against any laws in many U.S. states. It’s a legal grey area and it’s up to judges whether employers or employees will win the case against tracking their behavior. As mentioned by the Atlantic, atime-tracking app by TSheetscould still track employees’ location if they forgot to clock out for the day.
Here’s another situation, where a woman was fired for uninstalling job management app Xora from her company-issued iPhone after she discovered it was tracking her 24/7. In her case, the GPS monitoring did not stop once she clocked out.The two parties settled the case out of court.
Criminals Robbing Your Home
In 2010, a group of developers started a live stream of people sharing their location data on Twitter. They named the stream “Please Rob Me” to draw attention to one of the major risks of sharing your location – i.e. that robbers would know your home is empty and ripe for the picking.
This especially applies to people who tend to broadcast on social media that they’re on holiday. Unfortunately, with so many people having a poor understanding of their privacy settings (just look at the Cambridge Analytica scandal), unwelcome third-parties can have a look at your location data as well.
To combat this lack of information regarding your online – and in extreme cases, physical – security, ProPrivacy has made it their mission to offer you the best tools for protecting your privacy.
Whether it’s greedy ISPs selling your browsing and location data, government spying, a hacker eyeing your payment info on public WiFi, or just a jealous ex keeping tabs on you – you can count on ProPrivacy to offer a solution for everything.