How would you feel if you found out someone was tracking your every move? Or if you learned someone had the ability to know where you had been, and for how long?
I’m not talking about the government, or any law enforcement agency. I’m talking about your friends, your family, your acquaintances, and your co-workers. Or maybe you have some people you need to be able to track?
I was looking for GPS (Global Positioning Systems) units like those from Garmin that can be used to help you get to your destination while driving or walking; and during my search I came across this site for BrickHouseSecurity.com which is managed by BrickHouse Electronics. One category of device they sell is GPS Tracking units.
Several of these devices were as small as a beeper (remember those) or a cell phone. They could easily be carried by someone on their belt, or in a packet, or a handbag. This could be very handy for keeping track of your kids while they’re out of the house at school, or at a friends house. Or a family member who was travelling could carry one so that other family members could see where they were in their travels. These applications could be used innocently and safely enough. Many of these devices can be Internet enabled so that the owner can login to a web site to see a map which shows the vehicles location.
A news article in yesterday’s Chicago Tribune written by Liam Ford had discussed how the Chicago courts were having troubles in their plans to use GPS tracking devices to follow stalkers who had violated their court orders of protection:
Under the new law, global positioning systems can be made a condition of bail for people charged with violating protection orders. Judges can apply the law to anyone under an order who is deemed at high risk of attacking someone. But budget constraints and questions about the best technology available for GPS tracking have bogged down county probation offices as they prepare to implement the law, officials said. The devices cost $8 to $12 a day.
“The financial impact is quite large-larger than the $200 fine that will be coming from those convicted of the crime,” said Dawn Dalton, executive director of the Chicago Metropolitan Battered Women’s Network, an umbrella group of domestic-violence advocacy organizations.
Officials also say they don’t know how many GPS devices to order, because only a fraction of those with an order of protection against them will be eligible for tracking.
I would assume that they were using real time tracking devices to see if these offenders were approaching the workplaces and homes of their victims. It would be interesting to learn if any of the victims were being offered tracking devices, too, so that law enforcement could track if the violators were stalking them.
Some of the other devices were a little bit larger for mounting inside a car or boat or some other large movable object. These, too, could have useful purposes. Businesses could use them to keep track of company vehicles. There was another story in last weeks Sarasota Herald Tribune about 4 police officers who had been tracked by GPS during an investigation into whether or net they were working the hours they said they were on their work reports. Three of the officers retired, and one was fired.
MSNBC reported on an interview with Jason Lazarus, the marketing director for Brickhouse Securities, in connection with a story about how several churches were using small battery powered GPS tracking units to protect their holiday and nativity scene exhibits from vandals.
Stories are even cropping up about offices using GPS devices to track employees in order to verify productivity. This enables them to answer questions such as: Is our sales rep at that trade show now? Did they make it to the conference on time? Where are the company vehicles right now? I remember how several years ago Philadelphia was going to install GPS tracking units in taxi cabsin order for dispatchers to track their locations. There were a number of cabbies who objected to this plan. These GPS Fleet Management Systems allow for a tracking system any business can afford to keep track of their vehicle and movables.
Of course, there’s nothing to stop somebody from discreetly installing one in your car. Maybe someone doesn’t trust you, and is considering dropping one under the seat of your car, or in the truck. Imagine cleaning out your car and finding some little beeper you’ve never seen before. For some its just a fun game, but for others its a violation of their privacy. Where do you stand? I know I was a little bothered this past weekend when I called a MovieFone to check on show times, and they didn’t ask where I was because they could tell where I was from the cell phone signal. Not only did not want to attend a show in that area, it just bothered me that some service that I had no personal connection with could locate me that way. It would be great if I was calling 911, but not for show times.
I believe their is such an application available for iPhones and other smartphones with GPS installed. These applications let you see where your “friends” are in real time.
Where do you stand? Can you think of good uses for GPS tracking devices? What’s the down side of GPS tracking? I’d be very interested in hearing some other perspectives and application sof this technology.