I decided to examine both claims by planting three AirTags, three Tiles, and a GPS tracker on my husband and his stuff to see how accurately they revealed his movements and which he found out.
Some states, including New York, where we live, have laws that criminalize this sort of thing. Not wanting to break the law, nor my husband’s trust, I asked his permission.
It wasn’t the first time I’d subjected it to my brand of experimental reporting. I’ve been covering privacy for over a decade and have found that the best way to concretely explain the dystopian implications of new technologies is to immerse myself in them, like a guinea pig.
My husband has lived on bitcoin with me, been spied on by our “smart home” and watched me drop tech giants. (He didn’t want to give them up himself saying, “I have a job,” but he agreed to unplug our Amazon Echo.) He also happens to be a professional press freedom advocate, so I was pretty sure he would go.
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“You can do it,” he said. “But it will be boring. We are in the midst of a pandemic. I never go anywhere.
Our lives are certainly less exciting these days. We hardly see anyone except each other or my in-laws. In addition to a pandemic, it’s winter here in the Northeast, so we’re home most of the time. But my husband sometimes leaves the house and I wanted to follow him when he did.
When an editor offered to one day send a photographer to surreptitiously follow him in person – to visually show the movements I was tracking digitally – a small part of me worried that I discovered something I didn’t want to know. A little privacy is good for any wedding.
‘Is it in my shoe?’
Thirty minutes after my husband and youngest left for the hospital, I opened an app linked to the most accurate tracker in my arsenal, the $30 LandAirSea device. It costs extra to activate, as it requires a cellular plan to ping global positioning satellites. I chose the cheapest plan, $19.95 per month, to get location updates every three minutes; the most expensive plan, for updates every three seconds, was $49.95.