Baby monitors, fitness trackers, audio speakers, doorbells, watches, phones -- all things which are everywhere and all things which are used both for potential spying on you and for potential abuse of you. Tracking applications, in home cameras (for “security”) and Air Tags (to track “things”) are other devices used both for potential spying on you and for potential abuse of you such as speakers which work both for listening and communicating.
In our practice we have had actual complaints from clients about being “tracked” due to air tags surreptitiously placed in their cars, or even clients being tracked by programs installed in their cars by the manufacturer—programs meant to help the car owner find or control the car but used by one of the people in a relationship to track the car or even disable the car when the other person was using it.
We’ve also seen instances in which listening in on someone though their baby monitor is as easy as having another baby monitor which operates on the same frequency—even listening from another household in the neighborhood, not to mention listening from another location in the home.
We have had clients discover cameras and microphones in seemingly “innocent” devices such as clocks or statues or other “normal” things. We have also had clients complain of being tracked by their own video doorbells, fitness devices, and smart watches or smart phones.
Many times, we get the statement that another person from a violent relationship or a divorce “knows, everything I do and everywhere I go” or “… keeps showing up wherever I am.”
One charity in England reported that over seventy percent of the domestic abuse cases it handles involve “Tech. abuse.”
Isn’t it unlawful?
Many jurisdictions are considering bills making it unlawful to “invade someone’s privacy” in certain manners or to exert “control” over someone or “monitor” them but consider the responses of people who are accused of doing this, responses such as “I have a right to monitor what goes on in the home I own (or share) with someone.” “I have a right to monitor where the car I own is located or to monitor my child’s environment, or to monitor who is trying to get into my home, or even who is in my home”.
Laws have to be designed to attempt to prevent use of monitoring as a tool of harassment but, as one can see, the alleged abuser may have many legitimate reasons to be monitoring his/her property and therefore many defenses to dispute the use of any technology to allegedly “control” or “spy” on someone.
There may be safeguards you can program into “smart” devices to keep third parties from getting your information but what about the other “owner/user” of these devices. Aren’t they entitled to use of the devices?
Can there be any resolution to the competing interests here regarding legitimate use of “smart” devices for monitoring of safety and protection of property versus the use of the same devices to harass someone or watch them every minute? In some cases, we have recommended finding and disabling any intrusive devices when they are being used for harassing purposes. In others we have been involved in court cases where one party is complaining that the other party is tracking them or stalking them but, we have not seen much happen with these complaints since they have involved situations where one parent was allegedly tracking the parties’ child to ensure the child’s safety in case someone would abduct the child or in case the child were involved in an accident, etc.
Resolution of the issues presented here may never occur but there are some things that people can do in certain cases. One who believes that he/she is being stalked or harassed should check with an attorney regarding his/her situation and possibly also check with law enforcement.