Stephanie Smith: How do I love thee? Let me count the tracking devices

Caught out by a security camera. Or were they? Ben Chaplin and Emily Watson in Apple Tree Yard. Photograph:  BBC/Kudos/Nick Briggs
Caught out by a security camera. Or were they? Ben Chaplin and Emily Watson in Apple Tree Yard. Photograph: BBC/Kudos/Nick Briggs
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In this Valentine’s week of fluffy hearts and forecourt flowers, spare a thought for those who have loved and lost.

Like the businessman in the south of France who says an Uber app left a trail of evidence about his extra-marital affair after he had connected to his account via his wife’s phone.

According to Le Figaro, his lawyer says he logged off, but a bug in the Uber software apparently meant the app continued to send her updates detailing his movements. She became suspicious; they divorced. Now he is seeking damages of up to £38m from the taxi-hailing firm.

This surely is a classic – albeit 21st-century – case of blaming the messenger rather than message, as with so many complaints about ever-evolving technology.

And yet, how much do we know about what our gadgets and devices know about us? How carefully do we consider the apps quietly simmering on our mobile phones and tablets, all our little trails of online evidence?

The modern suspicious spouse can download a tracker to his or her partner’s mobile phone, or place a tiny device in a laptop case or handbag. A doubting wife can even buy her husband a tie with a tiny camera hidden in the knot (a tip-off there for those of you who received a slightly odd-looking tie for Valentine’s Day – no need to thank me).

It all makes 1471 look quaintly archaic. In 2017, if you suspect there are three (or more) people in your marriage, there are lots of ways to play detective, sending out Cupid’s tiny poison arrows with a download or a few clicks.

Ah, you’re thinking, but you have nothing to hide, so you’re not concerned in the slightest about being tracked. Sure? Completely?

Because that’s what my husband thought when he used my Booths loyalty card, unaware that the receipts get sent directly from the till to my email.

And that’s how I discovered that he had bought a bag of potato sticks, which he had then consumed in the car before driving home. I’d been wondering what the crumbs around the gear stick were. Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, that particular mystery was solved. If I hadn’t been so quick to expose and unbraid him, I could have had years of fun with those email receipts.

The moral of the story is, there is nowhere to hide in the modern world. Like in Apple Tree Yard, although the moral there is also don’t have sex in an alley with a crazy stranger (were they actually caught on security camera – anyone?).

We are all tracked and monitored, constantly. If you can’t be good … prepare to be busted.

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