Separating safely from a partner

Apr 18, 2023

It is not uncommon for families to have multiple ways to keep their family safe – from security cameras linked to phones, child tracking apps, Find my Phone, air-tags, and the list goes on.

What is initially put in place for the sake of family safety can very quickly, in the context of separation, become a mechanism for one party to a separated relationship to stalk, control and invoke fear in the other.  On the other side of the coin, an inadvertent oversight about not dealing with these matters early can be used as evidence that stalking is occurring, resulting in restraining orders.

Sometimes this kind of behaviour by one party toward the other is one of the key reasons for the separation in the first place, and technology can often allow this behaviour to continue well beyond separation.

It is for this reason that when separating, it is essential to turn your mind to the technology that might be in place, which could give rise to safety risks, or allegations of breaches of privacy and security.

So, in addition to the other matters to be dealt with when separating, consideration should also be given to the technology in place which might create issues, including:

  1. Apple AirTags:

The cost of an AirTag starts at just $49 with battery life of over a year. The AirTag connects to the owner’s phone and the owner can track the location of the AirTag anywhere in the world.

For pets and luggage, this is a great device.

Unfortunately, however, this small, inconspicuous device can be used to track another person’s whereabouts, whether by being left in a vehicle or even in children’s backpacks, which could be considered as stalking.

There is a helpful hint which may indicate an AirTag has been planted, which should not be ignored.  When an AirTag is separated from its owner and is within proximity to another iPhone consistently for an extended time, the unconnected phone may receive a notification saying ‘AirTag found moving with you’.  This can then be traced to locate and remove the device.  Scanning for Bluetooth devices might also identify an AirTag which you may not be aware of.

  1. Security cameras:

Modern security camera systems are usually linked and easily accessed, real time and historically, to someone’s mobile phone or similar device, giving that person full visibility of the household.  Sometimes in-home cameras will also have sound, allowing the monitoring person to listen to conversations within the reach of the camera.  If the monitoring person is the one who has moved out of the home, then the person who remains should be mindful of the extent of this and ensure access is either removed or changed, so this monitoring cannot continue.

  1. Shared iCloud, Apple IDs and email access:

Shared Apple IDs may allow anyone using that ID to access important data including photographs, contacts, text messages and location.

Upon separation, it is important to ensure separate Apple IDs are set up, and the sharing features disabled.

  1. Children’s tracking devices/apps:

There are various apps available which allow either one or both parents to track the location of their children.  This could also be used by one of the parents to track the location of the other parent when the children are in their care.  Dealing with this may be tricky as parents who share care of their children may both want to be able to access this information, so it may be a matter of disabling the app unless the child is not with either parent, to avoid this issue.

  1. Joint accounts:

Using something as unremarkable as the joint account or credit cards which can be accessed real time by other account holders, can give one person a running list of location and activity.  It is therefore important that separate, individual accounts be set up.

Other tips, both technological and non-technological, about what should be considered when separating are listed in our previous article on Practical steps for a smoother separation.