Modern Mating

When Technology and the Sexes Collide

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Spying on the ones we love

It has never been easier to find out what a mate is doing. Spying has become democratic -- anyone with a few dollars and a suspicious mind can track their loved ones readily.

For under $1,000, it is possible to buy a global positioning system (GPS) tracker that is small enough to conceal in a car, but with enough battery life to last a couple of months. If someone suspects that their spouse is sneaking off to hotels, this tool will blow the whistle on any prolonged or suspicious parking. The SlimTrak Real Time Tracking System, for instance (available at TheSpyStore.com or BrickhouseSecurity.com) is about the size of a large cell phone and is touted as ideal “for covert applications” as it has a waterproof magnetic case which allows for installation under the vehicle or under hood.

When the tracker is used in conjunction with a service like LocationXS.com, it is possible to observe on the web, a report – either historical or in real time – of where the vehicle was at various times of day. This position will be displayed against a map, or in text form which includes information on the address of the vehicle at the instant its position was taken and what the vehicle was doing (parking or driving). The subscriber gets to determine the frequency in which they’d like the position of the vehicle updated. Of course, the more updates, the more cost to the consumer. The minimum monthly charge is $7.95, which permits the user to check out the location of the tracker 50 times. For $54.95 a month, the user can check the location 500 times in a month, which means that if there’s any prolonged parking, or any other suspicious hotel or home visits, they will be revealed.

If vehicle tracking seems too expensive, cyber-snooping is a low-cost alternative. There are many software programs that operate invisibly, which enable someone to trace their partner’s Internet activities. Visit a porn site, indulge in cyber chat, and your key-strokes could be logged, or snapshots taken of your screen.

There have even been instances of a spouse going undercover in a chatroom to try and entrap her partner.

For only about $100, there are many companies online that will obtain someone’s cell phone records. An article in the New York Times by Ken Belson notes that “anyone armed with a target’s cellphone number can call the same service centers that these data brokers call and, by creating a fictional identity and a plausible excuse, persuade an agent to hand over numbers.” While lawmakers and the cell phone companies are trying to make these security breaches less likely, it is inevitable that con artists and clever data brokers will continue to figure out how to acquire such private information.

All of these tactics involve desperate invasions of privacy. The easiest -- and cheapest -- solution is to find a mate whom you trust, and forego the cloak and dagger stuff entirely.