Electronic ankle monitors are increasingly used to track individuals in the justice system. These devices allow probation officers and authorities to monitor a person’s location and movements remotely. But what exactly do ankle monitors record and what kind of information do they gather? Understanding the capabilities of this technology provides important insights.
GPS Tracking of Locations
Modern ankle monitors use GPS and cellular signals to pinpoint the wearer’s location at any given time. The GPS tracks movements both indoors and outdoors. It generates a comprehensive log of everywhere the person goes while wearing the monitor.
Location data is continually transmitted to monitoring centers. This allows probation officers to ensure compliance with geographic restrictions. Entering forbidden locations or leaving permitted ones triggers alerts.
Detection of Rule Violations
Beyond just tracking locations, ankle monitors have other ways of detecting rule violations:
- Tampering sensors alert authorities if the wearer tries removing or manipulating the device.
- Some monitors record ambient audio to detect any unauthorized device removal.
Radio frequency beams surrounding the monitor connect it to a home base unit. This alerts officials if the wearer leaves their residence when they are supposed to stay home.
Activity sensors may be included to confirm compliance with restrictions on movement.
So ankle monitors both trace an individual’s whereabouts and notify officials of any apparent noncompliance.
Limitations and Blind Spots
However, ankle monitors are imperfect and have certain blind spots:
- Location accuracy depends on signals remaining strong. Buildings and interference can disrupt GPS tracking.
- They indicate approximate areas, not precisely what the wearer is doing.
- Ankle monitors cannot detect new crimes directly. They only alert to predefined restrictions being broken.
- There are dead zones where cellular and satellite connections are unavailable.
- Physical obstructions can muffle audio recording capabilities.
- Activity tracking relies on estimates rather than precise biometrics.
While helpful, ankle monitors ultimately depend on the wearer’s choices more than the technology itself.
Pervasive location tracking and recording raise notable privacy issues as well:
- Ankle monitors provide constant surveillance with little freedom from monitoring.
- Ambient audio recording occurs without consent in private spaces.
- Collected data could potentially be misused without adequate security.
- False alerts may incorrectly implicate wearers of violations.
Appropriate policies are needed to safeguard civil liberties while utilizing this technology.
Ankle Monitors leverage GPS, cellular and sensor technologies to track location, activities, and rule compliance. But they have limitations in detecting and recording data. Concerns over privacy and misuse should also be considered in oversight policies. When used responsibly, ankle monitors can provide value to justice goals but require ongoing improvements and safeguards.