GPS on phone

Smart Phones & Domestic Violence Victims

It is hard to argue that smart phone technology has not made life easier. You have a dictionary, encyclopedia, fitness tracker; you name it, whatever you want it’s only a click away. This technology has also allowed us the ability to stay connected to family and friends via a variety of social media options and other methods. Unfortunately, the smart phone technology has unintentionally made it more difficult for domestic violence to make a clean break from their abusers. Abusers have used and are still using the GPS on their spouse’s or significant other’s phone to track them down. Once the abuser determines where the victim is, the abuser is likely to come to the victim’s location and/or call friends and family in that area intimidating them by threatening to kill anyone helping the victim.

Unfortunately, roughly 95% of all phones have GPS tracking abilities, so it is nearly impossible to purchase a phone that does not have one. This is due to a 2018 requirement set forth by the Federal Communications Commission that all mobile phones be embedded with GPS chips. The rationale behind it was to improve 911 services by increasing location tracking and accuracy to better assist users during emergencies. This requirement has helped many people survive car accidents and other dangerous situations, but for some, it has created a problem when a victim is trying to escape an abuser. Any GPS jamming software or device is illegal, so disabling the GPS is not a likely option.

In addition to the GPS tracking abilities, cell phones store very detailed information in regards to call logs and apps downloaded and used. If the victim’s phone is under the abuser’s name or falls under a family plan, the abuser has control of the cell phone service for the entire family. If this is the case, he or she has access to all of the information, including purchases made through applications, phone records, and the GPS location of each phone on the account.

There is some good news when it comes to GPS tracking and abusers. Arkansas law allows judges to require an individual that has violated a domestic violence protection order to wear an electronic tracking device. This allows for greater enforcement of protection orders because the vast majority of offenders have or will violate a protective order. The GPS monitoring requirement can give the victim peace of mind knowing that the abuser is being tracked. Many are designed to not only notify authorities but also the victim via a text message and/or email warning that the abuser is within close proximity.

Keep in mind that there is also a wide variety of real-time GPS tracking software, spyware, and stalkerware easily installed and virtually undetectable. A simple Google search will bring up multiple options for all phone types. The added danger in spyware and stalkerware is that the abuser can see a victim’s emails and text messages (both sent and received), voice calls can be intercepted for the purpose of eavesdropping, and many other harmful activities that violate your privacy can be conducted by the abuser violating a victim’s privacy and safety.

Stalking, domestic violence, and violations of protective orders is serious business and cannot be taken lightly. If you are an abuse victim or believe you are being tracked or stalked by an abuser, it is important to notify the proper authorities for your protection. Kevin Hickey Law Partners is here to help you file the necessary paperwork and take your case to court to help you get the protection and peace of mind you deserve.