Sunday, February 26, 2006

ethics of location tracking services

I came across this article about a UK-based service that allows people to track a mobile (for about 30 cents each time the location is requested). It's done via the Internet and locates people down to the network cell they are using; there is no mobile software involved. The person who is going to be tracked has to agree (via SMS) -- but there is some concern over whether that could be done without the real phone user knowing. The article also covers how the service can be made safe for children.

The company offering this service is World Tracker -- apparently plans for a US service are in the pipeline. I think this could be relevant for the people who were talking about child-tracking applications, or ways of locating lost/stolen cellphones.

The Mobile Broadband Group in the UK deals with regulatory issues for cellphone providers and has just drawn up a code of conduct for location-based services.

9 Comments:

Blogger Eric Forrest said...

The article states: "You may be a company wanting to keep tabs on employees during work hours"

Does anyone have an opinion on this? If you were an employee being tracked, how would you feel about it? I am curious because an application of the project I am doing involves tracking trucks, and an issue is that truck drivers may not want their employer knowing everywhere they go.

3:36 PM  
Blogger Frank said...

There are a lot of articles out there on employees being tracked and hating it. UPS tracks their drivers and they hate not being able to make a quick stop to use the restroom or get a snack without being totally scrutinized and having to answer for every deviation.

5:35 PM  
Blogger Justine said...

Thanks Frank, I was researching articles for our project and I came across this one: http://msnbc.msn.com/id/10089674/ that mentions UPS drivers and the pros and cons of employees being tracked.

10:32 PM  
Blogger Eric Forrest said...

I was browsing the web and saw a lot of different views on the topic. Some for it argue it could benefit employees by allowing them to use GPS as a "mobile timeclock" so that they could punch in and out of work while on the road and help them plan their day. However, many see it as a "big brother" situation.

10:44 PM  
Blogger Eric Forrest said...

Here is a paper I found that covers a wide range of issues with mobile GPS tracking: Location-Based Services and the Surveillance of Mobility

It also lists some specific hardware and examples of applications.

9:59 PM  
Blogger Matt Adkisson said...

I just saw a tv advertisement from Disney for a new phone, for kids, with GPS enabled, so that their parents can track them. Seems like a lot of people are interested in this market, and there aren't many privacy concerns, which follows the recent trend of people being more interested in safety and security than in privacy per se.

5:36 PM  
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Blogger Kanvin said...

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