Cagle Law Firm
Attorney Zane Cagle

Posted on January 10th, 2013,
by Zane Cagle

Stalking-Not a Joke in St. Louis, Missouri–Frighteningly, There May Be an App for That

Posted on January 10th, 2013 by Zane Cagle

Stalking Frighteningly, There May Be an App for ThatGPS tracking for individuals–Honestly, the day my little girl was born, I thought about GPS being a viable option when she became a teenager! But,  I really thought I had a few years to wrestle with the ethical considerations of planting a GPS monitor on my daughter by the time she became a teenager. But an article  I read recently reminded me of the advantages and disadvantages of technology and the ethical or unethical motives people use for GPS tracking. The article “Stalkers Find Friend in GPS Technology” in the St. Louis Post Dispatch was not surprising but alarming all the same.  It was about “Stalkers”.

At some point in time, you may have either experienced a stalker or had a friend with a stalker experience—it’s crazy and can be one of your biggest nightmares.  As technology capabilities increase, our world’s become smaller and closer together. The advantages that we experience through technology through increased connectedness and communication can be disadvantageous if there is someone you do not want to talk to or someone that you do not want to know your whereabouts. The article I read today was disturbing as it described one St. Louis woman’s battle with a stalker that harassed her first with phone calls, window peeping and then acts of vandalism by putting nails and tacks in her driveway and vandalized her car! She discovered that no matter where she went, this harassing man seemed to know where she was….literally no escape.

Why did this woman have to plan her travel and make elusive movements like a criminal on the run? Hidden in the undercarriage of her car was a white plastic device held together with a magnet and electrical tape—-it was a GPS tracker!  There are actual phone applications and technology that one can buy to track other individuals, monitor their online activity, track their phone calls and listen to their communication.  Technology that only a few years ago was available in spy movies is available at many electronic stores or online!  Daunting!

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, reports suggesting that there are 3.4 million known stalking cases each year and1 in4 involved use of some type of technology. That statistic was in 2006 before release of the iPhone which has only made stalking more efficient. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that nearly 40 percent of female stalking victims and more than 30 percent of male stalking victims reported being watched or followed by some sort of device.

“Technology itself is not the problem—it doesn’t cause the stalking. But it does facilitate it”, said Michelle Garcia, director of Stalking Resource Center at the National Center for Victims of Crime, in Washington.  GPS tracker systems can be purchased at most electronics stores or purchased on line for as little as 50 cents a day.

Furthermore, “spyware” can be provide remote access to everything as well as real-time information on it’s location. I can even use the phone to pick up conversations, both over the air and in person.

When I hear that there are phone applications that can invade  privacy through tracking your every move and convesation, I am not surprised but I think that it is good to  be aware.  Most of us do not have the time or the inclination to go to the these efforts to monitor another individual………..but then, frankly, not everyone is mentally stable, unfortunately.

U.S. Senator Al Franken has sponsored a bill that would ban “stalking apps” and the bill passed out of  the Senate Judiciary Committee last month. Some cell phone companies will text customers if tracking software is activated on their phones and shut it off upon request from law enforcement.

Are there good uses for tracking devices? Sellers of tracking devices say there are legitimate uses such as helping parents track children.  As well, venders advertise, “Whatever your needs may be, there is a personal GPS tracker designed specifically to fit them”. The vender stated that detectives and law enforcement use such tracking in criminal and civil proceedings. They further tout that jealous spouses are employing the use of GPS tracking in addition to hiring private detectives to check on the faithfulness and honesty of a spouse.

So what of the St. Louis woman?  She was not looking for the GPS tracking device but was tipped off by an acquaintance of the stalker and was, of course, rattled by the discovery.

While this GPS tracking system seems common place, police officers actually must obtain a warrant to use such tracking systems after a U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year recognizing the involved privacy concerns.

So, while I may seem like I was joking in my introductory statement by wanting to track my child’s every move with a GPS tracker, stalking is no joke. While I do not handle cases involving stalking, I know attorneys who do. They are common in criminal and family law and it is kind of fuzzy since simply tracking to satisfy curiosity or to strengthen a divorce case is not necessarily malicious nor does it prove harmful intent.  Under Missouri’s adult abuse law, stalking is a crime and the victim can seek a protective order.  However, it will be interesting to see how the numbers rise and the resulting civil actions brought against individuals for invasion of privacy and similar stalking type complaints.

So, will I have a GPS system in place when my little girl reaches her teen years? The advances in technology surprise us  every day……..who is to know what will be possible in those short 10 years down the road, but I definitely will have to consider just how much trust that would be instilling and just what I would be teaching her  by imposing such a system of checks.  While it is tempting to do as a parent, as a teenager, I would have felt very violated and angry with my parents. I believe the way we behave with technology or any other aspect of life must be an example for our children to follow. Basing my relationship on secrecy and privacy invasion with my daughter will probably not really be preparing her for the life’s challenges down the road.

Technology is an amazing thing. Just as this new challenge is presented, I am sure there is someone, somewhere developing an antidote or software that you can buy to combat this issue.  With technology, it is always just a matter of time! But in the meantime, report harassing behavior and do not be embarrassed to seek help immediately.  Never toy with your safety and never underestimate the energy and power of mental imbalance.

At The Cagle Law Firm, we are personal injury attorneys who represent vicitms of various kinds of accidents resulting in serious injuires.  If you have been in an auto accident or a truck accident, and you do not know if you need legal representation; our consultations are always free. Call 1(314) 276-1681 to gain the information you need to make the best decisions for you and your family.