GPS Tracking Devices and Countermeasures – Prudence or Paranoia?
GPS tracking is a popular buzzword, and not just in the automotive industry. Most of the public is quite familiar with General Motors OnStar service that uses Global Positioning System technology to track the location of an automobile via satellite in order to provide emergency assistance or real-time directions. However, GPS tracking is also employed in an increasingly large number of personal electronics items for both navigation and theft recovery.
While it’s hard to deny the convenience of GPS tracking systems, there is a certain creepiness associated with the idea that your position is constantly being tracked. While many argue against government mandated GPS tracking of your car or cell phone (for obvious reasons), there is a growing trade in “personal” GPS tracking devices.
These “personal” devices can be used for something as benign as tracking vehicle mileage for tax purposes, or they can be used to keep track of teen drivers, wandering spouses, etc. Many of these personal GPS tracking devices are designed to be clandestine – some are painted black and equipped with magnets that allow them to be hidden underneath or inside vehicles, for example (see the Land Air Sea GPS Tracking Key).
As a result of the popularity of these “personal” GPS tracking devices, a number of different countermeasures to GPS surveillance have sprouted up in the form of devices and information services which are designed to thwart the accuracy and transmissions of GPS trackers.
While GPS systems use satellites to determine their location, most of them actually communicate with whatever central system is monitoring them through standard cell phone frequencies. Cell phones communicate via a specific spectrum of radio waves, just like any other wireless device, and this means that the same technology that is used to jam a cell phone can be also modified to blank out a tracking device’s signals. Alternatively, some anti-GPS tracking units actually jam the GPS satellite signal itself, rendering the positioning data transmitted back to watchers useless.
Most units capable of blocking GPS tracking are around the size of a paperback novel, and can easily be carried in your hand. They consist of a small box with an antennae and a switch, and can be powered by an internal battery or a vehicle cigarette lighter. Keep in mind that depending upon the strength of the jammer/blocker you purchase, you might actually interfere with other GPS units in your immediate vicinity as well as any other devices which might be using neighboring frequencies on the radio spectrum. This could attract unwanted attention, and it’s also illegal in some instances. So, caution is the word.
It might seem a little James Bond to walk into your neighborhood spy store and walk out with a GPS jammer, but the technology is really rather straightforward. It’s important to check with your state and federal guidelines before buying and operating such a device, as the FCC strongly regulates anything that could be considered a transmitter. It might be a good feeling to know that you are being protected from someone intent on keeping track of your every move, but no one likes getting a ticket or having something confiscated simply because they weren’t aware of specific licensing or prohibitions issues prior to purchase.
For most people, GPS tracking and GPS tracking countermeasures are not a concern. Still, it’s easy to see the implications of increasingly inexpensive GPS tracking devices.
What’s your opinion – are GPS jamming devices a realistic precaution, or a symptom of paranoia?
Filed Under: Toyota Tundra Accessories