This is how people you know can track your movements — and how you can prevent them

This is how people you know can track your movements — and how you can prevent them

The man accused of murder in Elverum attached a tracking device to his ex-girlfriend's car. But that's not the only way people you once trusted can track your movements.

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On Tuesday night, a 30-year-old woman was found dead in Elverum. A man in his 30s – her ex-boyfriend – is the alleged killer. Several months earlier, she had been subjected to serious personal harassment by the man – including him attaching a tracking device to her car on several occasions.

– There are now very good batteries in this equipment, they last a long time. It is used to track containers, Atle Arnes, specialist director at the Norwegian Data Protection Authority, tells NTB.

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Physical tracking devices have become more accessible – the most popular are so-called air tags and similar equipment, which must connect to a phone via Bluetooth. So-called GSM devices are difficult to detect. These devices connect directly to the mobile network, without having to visit another phone.

As the ex-boyfriend discovered, it should not be used without further ado.

-If a person doesn't know about it, it takes a lot for it not to be illegal. Cameras, audio recorders and batteries are getting smaller and better, and they're harder to detect, but it's illegal to use them secretly, Arness says.

In apps like Snapchat, you can voluntarily share your location with friends you know.  It can be easily abused.

Several ways to track cars

But physical trackers aren't the only way others can track you. A lot revolves around one's mobile phone.

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– You have to be careful about who has access to applications on the mobile phone and knows their password, says the director of the Norwegian Data Protection Authority.

It highlights everything from parking apps to toll collection systems that can track a car. If an ex borrows a car from you, it's not unusual for them to also have access to parking apps or toll information. Newer cars are also connected to the Internet.

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– There are specialists who can find out if there is a GSM device in your car. What you can take care of yourself are the car's apps and communications. A lot of data can be entered in a short time, and it can only be corrected by resetting the mobile phone or passwords, Arnes says.

Security expert Cecily Wean is particularly concerned about young people exposing themselves to the possibility of being tracked.

Young people are particularly at risk

Cecily Weian is an IT consultant and privacy expert. It was revealed back in 2020 that the Rema 1000Æ app could be used to monitor what a person is shopping for, through which many people have access to digital receipts. The problem was finally fixed.

-It is very easy to stalk and harass people. Apps that can be easily abused are available to the general public. This worries me,” she tells NTB.

She adds that young people in particular are at risk.

Young people think about privacy in a completely different way. It is very common to build trust by sharing information, and they do so immediately. Digital is their life, and they are bringing new people on board very quickly. When a person turns out to be untrustworthy, it is difficult to walk away, Weyan says.

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The Æ app previously allowed many users to track what they purchased on their own at Rema 1000 stores.

Not adapted to reality

Although most adults don't realize it, young people may share passwords or photos as a sign of trust. And since their lives have become so digital, it's difficult to put down the mobile phone and log out if someone receives information they shouldn't.

– Emergency services and police are not prepared for this matter. They see the world the way we do in older generations, where we have one life offline and one life online. In Elverum's case, the police did not understand at all the seriousness of what was happening.

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Wayan also highlights a case from Space Christmas. A man was fined for paying NOK 1,500 to his ex-wife on her birthday, which she did not want at all because the man was banned from visiting. The case was portrayed in the media as a woman not appreciating her birthday gift.

– Many people do not understand what a curfew means, and they think it means something physical. Waving some money is an “I can get to you” statement.

The man accused of murder in Elverum had previously attached tracking devices to his ex-girlfriend's car.  These trackers are just getting better and more accessible.

– A whole new world

The technology that exists now makes it possible for people to be “a little more of a strong person than they were before,” according to Wean. She believes that the legislation is not adapted to today's reality, and adds that it is difficult for people who are subjected to such personal persecution to get help.

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– Many may have to live with it, hiding in the hope of moving on without being detected. Wayan says many people feel ashamed, and he has the impression that the problem is expanding.

There is a lot you need to do to protect yourself if you grant access to a dishonest person. The Norwegian Data Protection Authority receives several inquiries from concerned people who fear they are being tracked.

– Many actors are tracking you all the time, but this is known because you know you have given the actors access to tracking in the shopping mall for example. What's new is that friends and individuals are given access, or accessed in some way. It's a whole new world, says Arness.

Have you given anyone access to your parking apps?  It can be used against you.

You may have to reset the phone

If you trust someone, and that changes later, you have to go through all of that, says Arness. He says that in extreme cases, you may have to change mobile phones, go through all the passwords, and go through everything that is connected to the Internet, for example the car.

Wian supports the advice of the Norwegian Data Protection Authority, and encourages people to review security and privacy settings in all apps. Additionally, she advises people not to keep it a secret if you have someone after you.

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– Tell your family and friends that this is happening, and ask them to respect your privacy.

Weian also points his finger at the developers. She believes they often take shortcuts when it comes to security, betting that they will be forgiven if vulnerabilities are discovered. For example, it took several years before tracking using Apple Airtags was also detected using Android phones.

– Developers should ask themselves how the worst person in the world could use the app, concludes the security expert.

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Hanisi Anenih

Hanisi Anenih

"Web specialist. Lifelong zombie maven. Coffee ninja. Hipster-friendly analyst."

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