There is more news coming out of Wisconsin related to the world of GPS tracking. A La Crosse man was convicted of stalking his estranged wife with a GPS tracking device installed in her car. Apparently, the man was just keeping tabs on her because of some custody issues that they were working out. If a police complaint about the convict is true, he used the GPS device to track his wife as far as Iowa, harassing his her with his presence.
He entered an Alford plea to the charge, which means he thinks he is ‘Not Guilty’ but still thinks a jury will convict him, and will suffer two years of probation and six months of local confinement – meaning that the person who once used GPS tracking to stalk will now have his location tracked with GPS. How ironic.
But this particular case is not of necessarily of interest because of this irony but because of two other things that have happened in the past couple of months. The first is that police in Wisconsin can GPS track cars without warrants according to a Wisconsin VI District Court of Appeals decision issued in March of 2009. This means that police can place a tracking device on any person’s vehicle that they feel like could be a suspect in a case without any warrant. If they thought that you were somehow a part of the mafia they could place one in your vehicle without you knowing and expect you to like it.
What makes this interesting is that apparently this same ability doesn’t transfer over to private citizens, or at least private citizens with restraining orders on them. This is great news for all of us that might fear a neighbour or complete stranger might be stalking us and be well within their rights. Apparently, only the police can stalk people without getting in trouble with the police …
But this leads to a related thing that is kind of interesting about this whole story – that GPS tracking blockers can be pretty useful devices. If you are having someone stalking you with a real-time tracking device installed in your car then there is no better way of getting them off your back than installing one of these devices (Update 4/16/2012: GPS jammers are illegal and should not be used). This isn’t something that most people are going to need and certainly isn’t something I would recommend having just in case – but if you are being harassed or stalked by someone with even the littlest bit of technical knowhow or if they seem to be showing up in places they shouldn’t know about then getting a GPS tracking blocker may be a good, safe thing to do.
The other thing that made this particularly interesting is just how widely available GPS tracking is. Even a stalkers in Wisconsin can get their hands on it. Just a few years ago GPS navigation units were over $500 – well outside the range of most people both then and now. Today, however, you can make your own real-time tracking device for $40 upfront and a $30 monthly fee with a cell phone and some free GPS tracking software. These types of tracking devices are very easy to set up and take very little skill to do.
But even without cheating and using a cell phone, some covert GPS tracking devices are fairly reasonably priced these days. An effective real-time tracking device can be purchased for well under $200, with some GPS loggers coming in at under $100. A GPS logger isn’t going to need a monthly subscription either, making it very easy to purchase and use extensively (but probably not by a stalker – so you are probably going to be good).
GPS is just going to become more prevelant as the years roll on and we are going to have to deal with GPS tracking on a much higher level than ever before. I can forsee in the future a time when letting someone GPS track your location is a sign that you are in a serious relationship with them, much like giving them acess to your email account might be today. Teens will track their boyfriends and girlfriends for the one day that they are a couple, only having to find a way to cleanly break such intimate knowledge. This may seem funny now, but in five years I really think that this is going to be a reality.
It may seem a little scary, but GPS tracking is going to be the norm rather than the exception.