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Location Tracking Devices Can Create the Appearance of Guilt

by Benjamin Tschirhart

In a recent review of new location tracking tech, New York Times writer Kashmir Hill tested several tools with the help of her husband Trevor Timm, who is also executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation.

They concluded that these tools are easy to use and difficult to counteract, but not always that accurate. With the consent of her husband, Kashmir tested the trackers by hiding them on Timm without his knowledge. One of these (the Apple AirTag) alerted his iPhone to its presence but proved almost impossible to find.

Apple touts its safeguards as proof against use by bad actors, but Hill’s review casts doubt on their efficacy. Another issue involves the potential for misinterpretation of data provided by these devices. When Timm visited a taco stand at the food court below an upscale private club, the AirTag reported his location as the club, not the food court. It is not difficult to imagine a scenario in which such misinformation might be used by law enforcement in order to construct a case for a prosecutor to convince an uneducated jury.

Warrantless searches and surveillance have become standard practice for law enforcement, with cooperation from tech companies enabling the violation of constitutional rights to privacy on a regular basis. When even an innocent experiment can result in such errors, it doesn’t take much to imagine how easily law enforcement might use these tools in bad faith to incriminate and convict innocent people. 

Sources: New York Times, techdirt.com

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