Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Tracking Your Kid by GPS: The Horror! Or, Why Not?

"Would You Track Your Kid by GPS?"
GeekDad, Wired (January 11, 2010)

"Question: if you had the ability to track your child's every movement during the day, would you do so? Or is this an example of helicopter parenting taken to extremes? How about tucking a portable GPS unit in her backpack?

"Partaking in my Saturday morning ritual of coffee accompanied by a laptop to scan through the daily newspapers, I came across a Toronto Star article by reporter Robert Cribb, who has been testing the Entourage PS, a portable device offered by a Canadian company called Blackline GPS. (Wired reviewed an earlier version of this technology by the same company in 2008.)

"The twist on this one is that Robert used the GPS to track his 5-year-old daughter during her walk to school, slipping the GPS into her backpack, then monitoring it remotely (on his computer screen or Blackberry). The father in me definitely sees the appeal of this capability...."

Answering the question in the headline: Yes, I might. I'll get back to that.

The author discusses a particular commercial service and the technology it uses, along with some of the philosophical aspects: nothing particularly deep, but - I think - thoughtful.

Some of the more jittery 'privacy' (anonymity, really, it looks like) advocates have had fits over things like security cameras in convenience stores and on the street. By their standards, my "yes, I might" might brand me as a neonazi fascist pig.

That, I can live with.

Just a Little Rant

The way I see it, I've got the responsibility to - at a minimum - keep my kids alive until they hit 18. If a tracking device will help, and I can afford it: I'd probably use it.

The technology is available today: but the price is still to high for someone in my position.

About whether or not it's 'ethical' for a parent to give a damn whether a child lives or dies: that's another topic. I think it is, but I'll grant that I'm what some call 'old fashioned.'

As for a tracking device keeping children from running free, "as free as the wind blows, as free as the grass grows?" It tracks, it wouldn't keep the kids from going anywhere.

Children are kidnapped at a fairly steady rate, here in America, and the Jacob Wetterling snatch happened just down the road, by my standards.

Yeah, I'm a little more attentive to security concerns than I might be otherwise.

Wait'll You See the Sequel

We have technology that make it possible to have tracking chips in our pets which give you a readout on Fido's vital signs. (USA Today, April 23, 2003) These devices are strictly short-range now, as far as I know.

A few years from now, I don't see why a tiny device getting its power from the blood stream, just like our cells do, couldn't be made to react to 'pings' at a distance. Something like cell phones.

Ideally, they'd be inserted in the delivery room as routinely as we do blood tests now. Finding lost or kidnapped kids wouldn't be the crapshoot it is today.

Yes, there are issues that need to be resolved: social and legal rules, limits and sanctions would have to be developed. But I think the benefits outweigh the risks.

But then, I live in a small town. The old gag, 'if you don't remember what you did today, ask someone: they'll know' is pretty close to the truth here. I don't mind: being an anonymous face in the crowd was never high on my list of priorities.

As for tracking devices making us lose our freedom, our individuality, our very souls? We survived credit cards and Social Security Numbers: I think we can take on tracking chips.

1 comment:

Brigid said...

"but the price is still to high" I think you may have meant "too."

"We have technology that make it possible to have" That sounds kinda awkward. ("Makes" might make more sense.)

Your friendly neighborhood proofreader strikes again!

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