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GPS Tracking – Fact Versus Fiction

In the movies, tracking devices are a writer’s favourite gadget – an easy (and clichéd) plot device to foil the villain instantly. While the use GPS tracking in films is loosely based in reality, what the movies don’t show you is the bureaucracy involved in making it legal. In addition, the films depict tracking devices as high-tech and sophisticated, utilising hardware and software that cannot possibly exist today. While we strive to make Black Knight the most advanced GPS tracker available, unless we have access to future technology, our trackers will remain simple, intuitive and do what they do best: track your vehicle and keep it secure. Today, we present some fictional scenarios you may have seen in the movies and contrast it with what the reality is.

Fiction: Police attach a tracking device on a suspect’s vehicle without them realising.

Fact: While there have been cases where law enforcement attached GPS tracking devices to a suspect’s vehicles in secrecy, these instances were deemed illegal and have since set a precedent (United States v. Jones, 565 U.S. 400 (2012)) for tracking suspects and perpetrators. Monitoring a suspect requires reasonable suspicion of criminal activity and a warrant. In other cases, a perpetrator may be monitored as part of their punishment. However, no warrant, no tracking.

Fiction: Law enforcement use the GPS tracker you installed to secretly monitor you.

Fact: Similar to the point above, any government agency cannot use your GPS tracker to monitor your movement at any time. The only exception is if your vehicle has been involved or is suspected beyond reasonable doubt in criminal activity. But, again, they must obtain a warrant to track the vehicle and seize its travel history stored on the tracking device.

Fiction: When tracking in real time the playback displays a continuous path with instant updates.

Fact: Instantaneous updates, while desirable, is not possible given how the tracker needs time to calculate and display its location. The fastest refresh-rate most trackers can achieve is between 10 and 15 seconds. This is because, first, the tracker must calculate its GPS coordinates, then send its location data over the telco network to a server where it gets translated into map data.

Fiction: A hacker exploits the GPS tracking device to remotely disable and crash the target’s car.

Fact: Yes, car hacking is possible as demonstrated by two hackers in 2015. However, important to know is that they hacked the car through its on-board computer which was connected to the internet. An after-market GPS tracking device is only connected to the car’s power source and does not integrate with any other on-board electronics. That being said, there are some tracking devices for sale that advertise remote engine disabling. These trackers present dangerous hacking implications, which is the reason why Black Knight does not include this feature.

The reality of GPS tracking is far less elaborate than what is shown in the movies. Films and other works of fiction may present tracking devices as malevolent tools that can be used to profile and spy on unassuming innocent people. In reality: if police want to utilise GPS to track suspects, they require legal clearance. The GPS tracker is a simple device that combines the use of GPS co-ordinates with map data. While Black Knight does boast additional features, our trackers will never integrate with your vehicle’s computer and adversely affect its performance. In other words, they do not make your vehicle susceptible to hacking.

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