Tag: privacy

Who’s tracking your phone?

woman holding cell phone as she goes up the escalator
So what’s the danger here? (Read on to find out!)

By now you will have heard how the FBI is using cellphone data to track down people who were at the January 6 storming of the Capitol. Early last year, you may have seen the orange-dots-on-black maps that tracked a group celebrating spring break in Fort Lauderdale as they headed home — potentially carrying COVID. What about you? Have you been in any situations lately where you think someone might have been tracking your phone?

Whether you like or don’t like the idea of being tracked by your cellphone, it is happening!

Not because you are a suspect in a crime. Not because you could be carrying a virus. No, you are being tracked because you are a valuable marketing asset! In fact, years of your location data has probably already been recorded, sold and re-sold multiple times, without you getting a single penny for it!

By now you may also be wondering, “Virginia, what does phone location data have to do with emergency preparedness?” As you’ll see, there are a couple of interesting angles to this story.

Assumptions behind this Advisory

First, we assume you have a smartphone. If you’re like most people, you count on your phone as your main communications tool for emergencies. How your phone is set up could play an important role in its usefulness.

Second, we think everyone interested in preparedness should be knowledgeable about security. We assume this includes phone security.

Before we go any further, here’s a disclaimer. Cellphone technology changes monthly, maybe weekly! Please confirm what you read here today with experts (your phone manufacturer, the app developer, your IT consultant, etc.) before you take any actions!

The vocabulary of phone tracking

And before we jump into what I’ve learned this week, I have to start with some vocabulary. (I had to look up these words myself.)

  • A GPS chip in the phone is what allows it to be tracked. The chip reveals location data: where your phone was and how long it stayed there. (GPS refers to the Global Positioning System, operated and maintained by the U.S. Air Force for “Space-Based Positioning, Navigation, and Timing.”) Satellites, cell towers and Wi-Fi can all be used to pinpoint the location of your phone.
  • Metadata is the basic info about a phone message. It consists of who you are (your device, not your name), who you’re talking to (device), and when you’re talking.
  • Content is what you are actually saying or sending by message. Your content can be encrypted for privacy.
  • Encryption is a process whereby a message is converted into code, making it impossible to read unless you have the key to the code.

Of course, we rely on all this information on ordinary days and during emergencies.

GPS capability helps us chat with friends, make business arrangements and find our way there. It lets us check on what the weather’s going to be like, and figure out where to get gas.

In an emergency our phone uses the same technology. We can check to be sure family is OK, locate the fire or traffic jam, find our way to a shelter. If we’re trapped under a fallen wall, our phone could help direct First Responders to our rescue.

Some of these functions are built into the phone. We can add many other functions using apps – map apps, news apps, social apps, earthquake alerts, gaming, chat, roadside assistance, etc. etc. You will be interested to know that the average person has 40 apps installed on their phone — of the over 2 million available! That average person only uses about 20 of them, however. (As you might imagine, younger adults use more than older adults.) You can get more interesting details of phone app usage here.

So, phones and apps represent a lot of convenience.

The real value though, and the reason people are tracking your phone, is the information that apps capture about your location.

When you use your phone and apps, you are agreeing to be tracked in real time. Companies tell you they are tracking your phone in order to “Give you a better user experience” or “Improve service.” At the same time, many of the apps, and particularly the free ones, collect far more than the essential info they need.

They combine your location data with other users’ data and sell it to organizations that build and then in turn sell detailed user profiles for marketing purposes. Hundreds of companies buy the compiled user profile data. Examples are banks, insurance companies, credit companies, airlines, and retail giants like Nike and Amazon. Oh, and political parties!

Can the government buy this data, too? Typically, law enforcement has to prove why they need the data. But there’s been recent reporting of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) spending thousands of dollars on location data – without being authorized to do so. The ACLU is suing for infringement of privacy.

However the lawsuits work out, you can pretty much assume that some of your personal location information has been collected and passed along to private and perhaps even governmental agencies. And this won’t stop.

What can you do to keep the world from tracking your phone?

Here are simple things we all can do that will make it harder for our location to be traced.

  • Turn off the radios (think Spotify) on your phone, whether they are cellular or wi-fi.
  • Even if your phone is off, though, its location can be found because Wi-Fi and Bluetooth still receive data. The easiest way to stop this is to turn on the “Airplane Mode” feature. 
  • Go to “Settings,” “Privacy” and “Location settings” on your phone, and adjust. Apple also has a setting to “limit ad tracking.” (A lot of the apps you like probably need location settings, so be careful in shutting things off entirely.)
  • Shut the phone down completely and take out the battery. Of course, then you can’t use the phone at all!

If you read any crime novels like I do, at this point you will be asking, “What about using a burner phone? (For the non-crime reader, these are pre-paid cellphones used just a couple of times and then trashed.) If you want to use a burner to avoid being identified, be sure to buy with cash (away from where you usually shop), keep your calls short, and remove the SIM card before you toss the phone. These phones can still be located but even if the phone is located there’s theoretically no link to you as an individual.

What about protecting the messages you do send?

Location is metadata, and can be tracked in a number of ways and by a whole raft of commercial enterprises. What’s in your messages is “content.” Content is a lot harder for people to get to – and pretty easy for you to make more secure.

For security, insist on encrypted messages. I didn’t really realize it, but many of our most popular messaging services automatically encrypt what you send – as long as the person on the other end of the message has the same service (and thus the key to the encryption).

For several years my family and I have been using WhatsApp to send messages and photos. In 2016 WhatsApp announced end-to-end encryption. (WhatsApp had been purchased by Facebook a couple of years earlier.) In 2018, Apple’s iMessage and FaceTime also announced end-to-end encryption.

Sounds good, eh? But it’s important to remember that if these companies store or back up your messages, the messages may be available at a later time. And since  these are for-profit companies, we cannot know exactly how they intend to approach privacy in the future.

My research for this Advisory suggests that if you are concerned about having a good, free and private encryption message service, you should look into the Signal Messaging app. It’s a non-profit company that has always been dedicated to end-to-end encrypted calling and texting.

Caution: In recent months the demand for “privacy” online has led to dramatic growth for Signal, and experts are watching to see how the company will respond to this surge in new users.

So you’ve set up your phone for a better level of privacy. Now what?

What else can you do to your phone to yourself from being tracked, surveilled or hacked? Here’s a last list of suggestions. I hope most of these recommendations are familiar to you!

  1. Set up a password on your phone, the longest one possible. Don’t be like the 70% of people who use the same password for multiple accounts!
  2. Consider using a fingerprint or faceID instead of a passcode. Harder for a thief to get into your phone. On the other hand, easier for police to force you to open it.
  3. Don’t charge your phone in public places like airports or shopping centers. You don’t know if that outlet itself has been compromised and thus might be transmitting your private data while all you think is that you’re charging the phone.
  4. Use the same caution when picking public “hotspots” – like a Starbucks – for connecting to the internet.
  5.  Remember that companies can be subpoenaed to give up your data. You may not even know it has happened.

Finally, keep track of your cellphone!  Over 70 million are lost or stolen each year!

Go onto YouTube and you can see video after video of people’s phones being stolen right out of their hands as they are standing talking on the street. Most of these “grab and run” thieves zip by on a bike or scooter and before you realize it, your phone hand is empty! We wrote about “scooter” thefts last year, when there was a rash of them in San Francisco.

And if you’re still remembering the image at the top of this page, it is meant to represent another situation where phones get stolen. You are going up the escalator, the thief is going down, and BINGO, your phone has disappeared.

I found a couple of inexpensive items that might be useful for forgetful or careless types.

First is a lanyard to keep you from walking away from your phone. This one comes in different colors, even in two-packs so you can change colors to fit your outfit (or share with another family member).

Doormoon Phone Lanyard, 6× Durable Patch, 2× Adjustable Neck Strap, Universal Nylon Phone Straps for Phone case Compatible with iPhone, Samsung Galaxy and All Smartphones (Black Purple)

Or maybe you’d prefer a wrist strap to you can keep the phone handy even when your hands are otherwise full. And a wrist strap would keep that escalator thief from grabbing and getting away!

Wrist Lanyard with id Holder, Doormoon Card Holder Credit Card Wallet with Starp for Smartphones Sleeve Extra Tall Pocket Totally Covers Credit Cards and Cash (Red)

If you’re worried about your phone slipping out of your pocket, or being slipped out by a pick-pocket, consider this. It uses a magnet to “pin” your phone securely in place inside your pocket or purse.

Stocking Stuffers : Cell Phone Accessories: Don’t Lose Your Phone, Wallet, Tablet, or Keys – Patented Anti-Theft, Anti-Drop, Magnetic Cell Phone Lock – Secures Your Mobile Device to Pocket or Purse

One last note about cellphone security.

Your security depends on the person you are sending to having good security, too. I love this oh-so-timely quote: “Think of it as herd immunity. The more people practice good security, the safer everyone else is.”

Your Emergency Plan Guide team

P.S. What other suggestions do you have? Let us know. Dealing with our phones is not going to get any easier.

Personal Information Databases and Your Privacy

Privacy - Image of person being examined by magnifying glass

My shocking personal information story

Last weekend I got a text message from my daughter. She had been online and had found one of the personal information databases that had my name in it.

There are a couple dozen popular sites like the one she checked. They all offer background and personal information about anyone, usually including phone number, address (and past addresses), email address, relatives, pictures, social connections, court records, etc. While you usually can get one or two pieces of information just by typing in someone’s name, for a fee you can get all the records.

Well, my daughter got my whole record and sent it to me. IT WAS SO, SO INACCURATE!  Wrong birth date. Unknown foreign “friends.” Places I’d never been to! When I got to the (false) court records I shut the phone in horror!

(Now my daughter being who she is, she sent me specific instructions of how to cancel the account, which I was able to do within 24 hours. At no charge.)

Still, it was a shock. While I spend a lot of time online, I simply don’t use personal information databases and have never looked myself up.

But since we talk about cyber-security a lot here at Emergency Plan Guide, it seemed important to share more about it today. These personal information databases are legal. They have found information about you without breaking any laws. There have been no “leaks.”

But your privacy is certainly threatened by them.

The Big-Daddy Personal Information Databases in all our lives – the Credit Bureaus

Most everyone is familiar with the credit bureaus that track 9 of every 10 adult Americans: Experian, Transunion and Equifax. A fourth seems to have been added to this list: Innovis.

While we often speak of “your credit rating,” or your “credit score,” you really have one from each company.  

But each credit report will be different. Why?

All four companies track money that you owe: mortgages, bank loans, car loans, student loans, and credit card debt. Credit bureaus also get information from public records, like property tax rolls or court records.

But businesses are not required to report the loans they make to you, so many businesses report to only one or two of the credit bureaus. That explains the variations in the reports

Action item: Check your credit reports.

If you haven’t checked your credit scores lately, you may want to. According to the Federal Trade Commission “You’re entitled to one free copy of your credit report every 12 months from each of the three nationwide credit reporting companies. Order online from annualcreditreport.com, the only authorized website for free credit reports, or call 1-877-322-8228. You will need to provide your name, address, social security number, and date of birth to verify your identity.”

According to the Innovis website, they offer a free credit report, too.

I have checked my own records in the past. Every time I found errors. Once it was a misspelling that dropped someone else’s debt into my file. If you see debts you don’t recognize, or other strange information, you can work with the credit bureaus to get your report cleaned up.

The “people-finder” sites track even more personal information.

Wikipedia says there are close to 4,000 “information brokerages.” This probably includes the credit bureaus. All of these companies are for-profit organizations that make money by charging for certain services and by selling your personal information to marketers – and to each other.

The people-finder sites are giant personal information databases. They start with names and aliases. They list addresses where you have lived and currently live. Some have reverse directories – enter an email and they’ll give you a phone number to go with it, or enter a phone number and you’ll get an address.

That is just the start. You may find lists of your children. Other relatives and ex-relatives. Lists of friends. Where you’ve traveled. Property you own. If you’ve been in trouble with the law or owe taxes. If you are a sex offender. Have declared bankruptcy. You may find photos of yourself!

How much of this information do you want to be available to anyone willing to shell out a few dollars? What if there are errors in the data? How can you protect your privacy?

When I found out about being on one of these sites, I immediately jumped into action to find out more.

How the people-finder information databases work:

  • You usually can’t get a complete look at your people-finder record  — or the record of someone else — without paying at least $1 for a “trial.” If you sign up for a trial, read the fine print. Trials typically turn into a “regular monthly subscription” unless you cancel within the specified time, which may be just a few days.
  • If you want to update or clean up your record at the people-finder site, you will run into challenges. They get your information by scraping the web – that is, by finding publicly available info. Obviously, you can’t “change” public information, although you can delete some of it. (Looks as though you can’t delete court records that aren’t officially expunged.)
  • Once the site is updated, you will be offered the option to subscribe for a monthly fee to monitor your account to keep it clean and also to be able to search for other people. Subscription prices seem to vary starting at as little as $5/month (for a multiple-month contract) but most are more in the $20-30/month range, with an extra fee for what has been termed the “juicy stuff” – criminal records, tax records.
  • Like me, you may want to close the account and remove all the information. Every site’s requirements for opting-out of the site are different – but from what I am reading, it is possible but your patience will be tried. You should not have to pay anything to get off the site but you may have to jump through hoops.
  • Even after you are successful at having the account closed, it may reappear again in the future when they “find” new information . . .

Here are some of the sites I came across in my research.

 I used an old email to check on a couple of them and found myself in every one I looked at. My photo was there, too! I am not recommending any of these sites — they are just to help you get started on your own research!

  • Peoplefinder
  • Beenverified
  • Mylife
  • Instant CheckMate
  • Spokeo
  • Anywho
  • Truthfinder
  • Whitepages
  • People
  • Peoplesmart
  • Intelius
  • US Search
  • Radaris
  • SeekVerify
  • Pipl

Can you remove yourself from these online databases?

How to get off the credit bureaus. The only way to get off them entirely is to become one of the 26 million or so people in the U.S. that have no debt profile. That means they have no credit cards. No mortgage. No car payment.

Most of us couldn’t function without at least some of these. So the best thing to do is to be sure your credit report is at least accurate.

How to get yourself off the people-finders. It looks to me as though getting totally off is impossible. You would need to have no online banking accounts. No social media accounts. No websites. You’d have to avoid using public wi-fi, and if you went online, use a Do Not Track browser. (Apparently Google does have a Removal Tool but it sounds as though they make it tough to use.)

Best thing to do here? Go to as many of the people-finder sites you can and ask that your information be deleted. Go there regularly. This is a lot of work.

Hire a “reputation manager” to help?  You can hire a “reputation manager” company that will search out negative info on your behalf, then remove or suppress it. Some of these companies specialize in business reputation management, others work for individuals. Fees for their services depend on the complexity of your situation, but customized plans seem to start at around $400 – 500/month.

“Privacy is dead. Get over it.”

You have probably heard this quote. It is attributed to the co-founder and CEO of Sun Microsystems, Scott McNealy – and he said it way back in 1999!

Obviously, the more we rely on digital communications to run our lives – essentially everything on the Internet of Things — the less privacy we will be able to maintain. Is there an answer – or is the genie out of the bottle, never to be returned?  I’m afraid the genie is dancing in triumph right now!

But in being conscious of what data you’re making available by participating in the digital society, you can at least be better prepared for what might come!

You Emergency Plan Guide team

P.S. I am not an expert in this topic. If it interests you, YOU need to become your own expert. If you already have stories to tell, please share them with us by leaving a comment below!

P.P.S. We have written pretty regularly about security and privacy. Here’s an earlier Advisory that talks about why home electronic devices are so vulnerable to hacking.

Surveillance Technology


Hidden cameraWe regularly look at what I’ll call “common security devices” – outdoor lights, motion-activated lights, including the very popular Ring doorbell camera.

All these are designed to prevent an unwelcome surprise or potential criminal activity.

Security devices help you keep an eye on what’s going on around your home or place of business.

Let’s stop for a moment and take a look at things from the other side.

What about surveillance devices?

Surveillance devices — sometimes called spy gear or spyware — may be letting others watch you!

If you’re a fan of spy movies or novels, a lot of what follows will sound familiar. The thing is, what used to be fantasy is now everyday reality.

Before we start, keep in mind that some of what we’re about to discuss may have legal restrictions. *

Still, people are using “spy gear” every day, and as someone interested in safety and security, you ought to have a basic awareness of what’s out there and how it works.

Examples of everyday spy gear.

We’ve all seen the movie where the detective goes directly to the phone in the room, takes off the base, and silently points to the recording device installed there.

These days, with communications taking place via cell phone, that sort of technology may be outdated!

1-Track a cell phone.

You surely know about the “Find my phone” capability in your smart phone. You can use the app or sign into iCloud and you’ll see a map showing your phone. (By the same token, if someone knows your login in and password, they can pretend they are you, log in and find your phone — and you — the very same way.)

The GPS technology built into the phone allows someone to track a lot more than just where you (and your phone) are. Stealth programs can locate the phone on a map, trace the route the phone has taken and alert the program owner if the phone has gone outside a preset boundary. More comprehensive programs can track all phone activity including instant messaging and social media activity.

More advanced phone tracking software typically requires a monthly subscription.

2-Secretly record a cell phone call.

If you want to record calls you make on your own phone, it’s usually a question of downloading the right app and learning how to activate it before you call, and then turning it off again when the call is over.

But what about secretly recording calls someone else is making? Again, it’s a question of software. You download a program onto your computer, then get your hands on the other person’s phone long enough to get it set up. Then, when they make a call to a specific number, or at a specific time, the call is recorded. You can download it and listen at your convenience. You may even be able to see pictures that are being sent via instant messaging, etc.

This sort of surveillance ware typically requires a monthly subscription because the data is sent to a hosting account maintained by the product manufacturer. You log in to your account to view what’s been recorded.

There are a lot of options associated with the programs that track cell phone usage. Here’s a site that reviews this sort of spyware:   http://www.top10spysoftware.com/

3-Take a video with a hidden camera.

We’re certainly accostomed to security cameras looking down at us in public places – and they have been instrumental in helping law enforcement catch criminals. (Remember the Boston Marathon bombers on video?)

We’re not so used to videos being taken in private settings, however.

In fact, many ordinary items — like the teddy bear in the photo above! — can house a hidden camera and most people would never suspect them. Just a quick jaunt through Amazon shows these examples.  Prices start at around $20, and some are even cheaper. (See my Personal Disclaimer at the end of this Advisory.) Click on the images or on the links for details and prices.

Note: when choosing a hidden camera you have to decide if the unit is standalone, or whether it can be connected to the wireless Internet network in your home or office. To use a standalone unit, you’ll have to remove the SD storage card and plug it into a computer to view what’s been recorded.  If you can connect to the network, you may be able to watch what’s going on remotely.

A pen that is actually a camera? Standalone unit, perfect for any business setting. Be sure it writes, of course. (This one actually comes with pen refills.)

32GB HD Spy Pen Camera 100 Min Video Recorder, FREE 32GB Memory Card, 5 Extra Ink Refills – Professional Secret Mini Digital Security Pencil With Tiny Undetectable Hidden Covert Cam

Look around the room you are in. See a wall clock? See a desk clock? Either one could have a hidden camera, taking photos of you right now!  The average person would never even notice this one, for example:

OUMEIOU 1080P 16GB Spy Hidden Camera Alarm Clock Infrared Night Vision Simplified Version

One of my favorites for a bedroom is a smoke alarm. Easy to mount! (But don’t put up a second alarm if there’s a real one already installed. Someone would notice that!)  (Click on image for more details.)

And again, for the office, hotel room, whatever . . . a spy camera that is housed in a phone charger or AC adapter. Comes in black or white to match your own device.

The list goes on. There are , . .

  • light bulbs with hidden cameras
  • electrical outlet plates
  • picture frames
  • key fobs
  • a tablet or iphone case
  • a bottle of water
  • (what looks like) a pack of chewing gum!

And still another idea. This fake plant with its camera actually plugs in for “years and years of use!”

And a last idea. Take a picture BACK through a door peephole using this clever reverse peephole spy cam!

4-Listen to a private conversation.

While there were plenty of spy cameras to look at, I didn’t see anywhere near as many audio listening or recording devices. Probably because of legal limitations — see the Legal Disclaimer. However, you can find good quality up-close recording devices built into wrist watches.

Spy cameras with recording devices can also be hidden in pens, similar to the one above, or in flash drives. Or you can buy a tiny recorder, no bigger than a button, and stick it anywhere.

Again, click on any of the images to go to Amazon, where you’ll be able to get an idea of features and costs. Shop around — there are plenty of choices!

5-Track someone’s whereabouts. 

GPS trackers have saved hikers lost in the woods. (We include a review of an excellent GPS radio here.) They also track commercial vehicles and the cars of family members, including pets. An obvious GPS tracker can be put in a pocket, stuck in the car door, or fastened to a pet collar. Hidden GPS trackers are fastened so that they are hidden, of course!

A “simple” tracker is motion activated. It records and saves info about where it went, to what address, how fast it traveled, etc. To get the info, you must retrieve the tracker and plug it into a computer.

An “advanced” tracker can provide real time tracking. It’s powered via battery, or is hardwired to the electrical system, and it sends messages to a cellphone or computer. Advanced trackers can send data in near real time. They require a subscription.

Here’s an “advanced” tracker that reports in every 5 seconds. You can  set up “boundaries” for the item being tracked and be notified via email when the boundaries are crossed. Attach to a vehicle with its magnetic case.

Spy Tec STI_GL300 Mini Portable Real Time GPS Tracker.

6-Track what someone is doing online.

It’s easy to download and install “tracker” software on any computer. It records all activity and, in fact, can record every keystroke. It can send alerts when certain words appear in an email or on a website. And it can block access to certain sites or emails.

If your boss or family member installs this on YOUR computer, they can monitor everything you are doing from their own phone, tablet or computer. The installation is difficult if not impossible to detect. (It’s also legal for your employer to track everything you do with company-owned property, in case you were wondering.  Check your Employee Policies Manual for your own company’s rules.)

Again, this kind of web-based program requires a monthly subscription.  Looking for more information about monitoring software? Again, here’s a review site: http://www.toptenreviews.com/software/privacy/best-monitoring-software/scription.

Counter Surveillance Technology

If you think you might be the target of some of these surveillance gadgets or techniques, you may have to spend some money to find out.

When it comes to computer spyware, you may not be able to detect it yourself. Good anti-virus or anti-spyware may help. Here a link to one of the best: Norton Security Premium – 10 Devices [Download Code]

When it comes to company-owned computers, you may be out of luck. Best solution? Change your behavior so you don’t have to worry.

As for finding listening devices or hidden cameras, “sweeping” a room may require something like this, designed to sweep a room to find hidden listening devices and cameras:  Spy-Hawk Security Products Pro-10G is the 1 GPS Tracker Finder and Law-Grade Counter Surveillance Bug Sweep – Newest Professional Handheld Detection of All Active GPS Trackers, Mobile Phones

Finally, you could try protecting your own cell phone from being tracked by carrying it in a “signal blocking bag.” Inexpensive peace of mind:
SYB Phone Pouch, Cell Phone EMF Protection Holster Sleeve for Phones up to 3.25″ Wide, Black with Belt Hoop

*Now for the Legal Disclaimers

All these items come with a caution to USE LAWFULLY. I am not a lawyer and am not giving any legal advice, but here are the basics that appear at every website or in every product description. Keep them in mind and do more research if you plan to use any of the devices we’ve talked about here.

  • Federal laws are one thing, and state laws another. Be sure you know how your state defines “lawful” when it comes to secretly recording or filming.
  • Generally, taping or filming someone who has an “expectation of privacy” can get you into trouble, and your recordings probably can’t be used as evidence. You may be able to use them to help you make private decisions, of course.
  • Audio recording is more problematic than video recording.
  • If you own the property, or have permission, you can put up a video camera with no audio. (This is the “nanny cam” standard.)
  • When it comes to audio, at least one person must give permission for the recording to be legal. (In some states, both parties must be notified and give permission.)

And my personal disclaimer:

I’m not at all an expert on these devices, and unlike most of the things we write about, I have not owned any spyware. (Joe is more paranoid than I am, and has a lot more experience. He made important additions to this article.) And, of course, technological breakthroughs have a way of changing everything overnight!

Still, what I discovered in researching these devices is:

  • Prices vary widely on nearly all items. (The exception is monitoring software from well-known brands.) Even some of the small items (like a flash drive/camera) can cost anywhere from $15 to $50, so you definitely need to shop carefully. (Generally, I have tried to select mid-range items as my examples.)
  • Some of the inexpensive items seem to be unreliable. You are probably wasting your money on them.
  • Many of these items are available only directly through specialty spyware stores. And not all of them have return policies or guarantees, so again – shop carefully. (That’s why the examples from this article are all from Amazon, where I have had some good experiences in customer service and in returning merchandise that didn’t work as advertised.) Rather than order online, you may want to visit a brick-and-mortar store to talk to a knowledgeable salesperson.

And a few more buyer’s notes:

Many of these devices are powered by batteries. Some are hardwired to electrical sources. Most are either “motion activated” or “heat activated,” which go a long way to extending battery life. What’s being recorded goes onto a SIM card and you avoid having to scroll through hours of dead time.

As with all emergency devices, be sure you understand how they are powered and how often you’ll have to replenish the power source.

And as with all electronic devices, make sure you realize just how much data your spy device can actually store before it runs out of memory and shuts down. As you can imagine, the more memory, and the higher the fidelity of the sound or image, the more you pay.

This Advisory is in no way comprehensive. It is meant to give you an overview of the kinds of spyware readily available today, and that you have probably come into contact with, without even knowing it!

If privacy is a big concern for you — and certainly, it’s becoming more of a concern these days for everybody — you’ll want to find out more about these devices.

Your Emergency Plan Guide Team