Sunday, March 18, 2012

Can my GPS be used to track me?

This has got to be one of the most frequently asked questions about GPS. The short, simple answer is no, your GPS cannot be used to track you. That is because most GPS devices are receivers; they transmit nothing. There are rare exceptions, such as the Garmin Rino series, designed to transmit your location to a friend.

Having said that, there is a more complex answer. First of all, if you have the tracklog enabled on your GPS receiver, someone with access to your GPS can physically connect it to a computer, download the track and see where you’ve been and when. Of course, that is all very different than real-time tracking. Just don’t use a GPS to guide you to a bank heist!

Many companies do make real-time GPS tracking devices, which have transmitting capabilities built into them. These can be used to track everything from lost pets to teenagers to commercial vehicle fleets. We’re not talking about your typical GPS receiver here; these are specialized devices.

And then there are cell phones with A-GPS. Many cell phones have options allowing you set it to "location on" or "911 only." You would need to have it set to "location on" to utilize GPS-assisted location based services. The legal issues surrounding access to this information by law enforcement agencies have yet to be fully sorted out.

Then there are other places a GPS may lurk, many times unknown to a person driving a car with GPS. Got Onstar? You’ve got GPS. Ever rent a car? Better check the fine print in the contract.

A couple of other references:

  • Wikipedia entry for GPS tracking, which hypothesizes "The consumer electronics market was quick to offer remedies (radar detectors) to radar guns; a similar market may exist for devices to counter satellite tracking devices. Radio jamming of the relevant GPS or cell phone frequencies would be an option, as would a device which could detect the RF emissions of the GPS receiver circuitry."
  • An article from Pocket GPS World on privacy concerns and the future of GPS.

Technorati tags: GPS

About Rich Owings

Rich is the owner, editor and chief bottle-washer for GPS Tracklog. Connect with him on Twitter, Facebook or Google Plus.


  1. Radar Electronics

    12-Band Rardar Detector – The reference is simply a remin

  2. I’ve read that it’s possible that your personal gps tracking device can be used for tracking your location but I’m not sure.Someone who’s better in this field has to answer you.

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