What can I do to stay safe or prevent the mis-use of a GPS-enabled device?
If an abuser seems to know too much information about where you have been or shows up in random locations that you did not share that you would be at, you may consider checking your belongings or car for hidden GPS-enabled devices. GPS can be included on a number of different types of devices, so you may need to look for something that you do not recognize or something that is out of the ordinary. A device will generally need a power source, so if a person has not had access to your belongings for a substantial period of time, you may want to see if there is a device that is connected to a power source like your car battery or under your dashboard. You may be able to get help from a professional to search your belongings. If you find something, an attorney, advocate, or law enforcement can help you determine what the device is and what to do with it. You can also find out a lot of information about a device if you do an online search with a description of the device that you found.
In addition to looking for unknown devices, it is also important to consider whether GPS is currently enabled on the devices that you already own. Devices to consider, include but are not limited to, your phone, your computer, a “wearable” device like a smart watch, and devices used by people close to you, like your children. Many “apps” and programs on your devices are GPS-enabled and could possibly send information to a person who intends to misuse that information. If you have any questions, a professional can help or you could try an online search with the words “how to turn off GPS on my [insert device name].” More information about phone safety can be found at limit location access on your smart phone.
You may also consider keeping a log of incidents related to the tracking so that you have evidence of a pattern or history to share with a lawyer or law enforcement.
GPS monitoring can be particularly dangerous if you are attempting to safely leave an abusive relationship since the abuser would be able to locate you. However, if you find a GPS device in your property, it can be important to safety plan with an advocate before removing any type of tracking device since removing the device may alert the abuser that you have found it. You may consider calling a domestic violence program from a public or third party’s telephone to safety plan if the abuser is tracking your location or monitoring your telephone.
Safety Net, a project of the National Network to End Domestic Violence, also has information on how you can limit location access on your smart phone and tips for staying safe if an abuser is using technology to monitor you.