Q: At the movies, it seems like they can always track the fugitive with all sorts of personal electronic devices. Is this for real?
A: Yes, it is. The days of the cops waiting for someone to swipe a debit or credit card while on the run are long over. Now, we voluntarily give away our location constantly. I would say it’s pretty hard to disconnect from Skynet (bit.ly/2DtzGL5).
I am not talking about fancy law enforcement spy tech like Stingray (bit.ly/2EZDb7Z) or Range-R (engt.co/2qzSpMo). There is plenty to be worried about there, but probably not much you can do about it. I am talking about the traitor you have invited into your life!
Your personal Benedict Arnold is your cell phone. And as you know, you don’t have to make a call for it to give you away. The cell towers know where you are as you move around to ensure you can make a call. Not to mention (as I mention it), hopping between Wi-Fi networks leaves quite the trail of bread crumbs. Removing your SIM card is not enough. You probably need to destroy that Pixel if you are on the lam.
So you ditch the phone…are you safe? Not so fast. Did you use iCloud or Google Drive to back up your phone? Well then, maybe restoring your cell phone with all of your secrets is not as tough as you think.
Is your car equipped with crash alerts or other wireless services? How about GPS? Probably. How about your electronic toll pass? For that matter, have you thought about license plate and face recognition cameras all over town? They know where you are and have been.
Considering the Metro or Uber? Think again. The accounts you set up to make hailing and paying for transportation easy keep track of your movements. I guess you are walking.
Have you recently purchased a device that has a companion app? Maybe a toothbrush (getprophix.com), smart speaker (sonos.com), dog-finder (getfindster.com), coffee maker (spinn.com), running shoes (underarmour.com/hover), or sports band (fitbit.com)? These are part of the wave of Internet of Things (IoTs) devices that stay connected to you for your convenience. Typically, this connection runs through your Bluetooth device (phone) or Wi-Fi (bit.ly/2SWBIrB). But some devices go further.
Ask Alexa or Google Home about the weather in Seattle? Your Next thermostat knows when you left the house. Thought about your pacemaker lately (bit.ly/2qzB1XS)? Be still, my heart!
Does your “go-bag” or keychain have a Tile (tile.com) on it? As you pass through the airport, or train or bus station, someone else’s Tile app could follow you. With Tile’s “community find” feature, your lost bag can be tracked by someone else who has the app near your bag. So even though you don’t have your cell phone, it’s possible to track you. So far this is only activated by you. But who’s to say someone couldn’t use that feature to find you when you didn’t want to be found? More and more IoT devices will extend their networks in the future.
For that matter, the cessation of tracking can provide useful information to those looking for you. Where were you when you ditched your car or your phone, or turned off your laptop? Facebook knows where you were when you when you disconnected.
What about social engineering (bit.ly/2QBt00x)? Does someone know your childhood address or first job, or your first movie theater? Hiding out in your old hometown or at your former mother-in-law’s? Gotcha!
Crime doesn’t pay. We are basically voluntarily giving ourselves up as we drop shreds of our privacy constantly. As George Orwell said, “If you want to keep a secret, you must also hide it from yourself.”