Friday, April 19Royal Holloway's offical student publication, est. 1986

Smile! You’re Being Tracked…

Last Thursday night saw the premiere of Channel 4’s gripping new series, Hunted, in which members of the public go on the run for 28 days and try to escape detection by the hunters. Aided by high-tech equipment used by the police and security services, they know a surprising amount about how far the fugitives have travelled and this has, as Channel 4 intended, flagged up to us how hard it is to disappear completely in today’s society.

What I found incredibly fascinating was the idea that we create patterns. As students we probably have the most freedom of anyone in how we structure our days, but most people tend to have a natural body clock, influencing their sleeping and waking patterns. With the colossal rise of social media, our phones are usually the first and last things we reach for in our days, revealing exactly where we are and what time we go to sleep and wake up.

Anyone who has seen any police procedurals, such as Castle, will know that tracing phones is one of the first things that the police do when they are trying to find a criminal. Considering the extent to which we are attached to our phones in modern society, would anyone really be able to cut all means of communications in order to be undetected?

Essentially to be on the run you have to cut all ties with everyone you know. The internet can be traced through the IP address you use and so can phone calls – if you really want to get away, you have to say goodbye to everything you know. I certainly would not be able to cope: not being able to talk to anyone other than the people I am with would be so hard – see how long you can really go without talking to your parents at university and you will start to understand the struggle.

Surviving on the run means not using a credit card either because, you’ve guessed it: that can be tracked too. Not only that, but the police can look at your spending patterns, meaning that they can predict when and where you are likely to be shopping. It goes without saying that you need a lot of cash if you want to travel safely and stay somewhere that isn’t a tent.

Personally, the idea of disappearing off the grid fascinates me and part of me would love to try to escape detection for a few days. However, with the surveillance state being as it is with cameras everywhere and multiple ways to be tracked, I don’t think I could even try. The very things that keep us safe would actually make me feel unsafe and uncomfortable and spending time without any contact with my family and friends would just make me miserable. I have the greatest respect for all those involved in the programme, but I don’t plan on becoming a fugitive any time soon. But remember everyone – Smile: You’re on CCTV…and worse.