We can all agree that the term “track” carries a negative connotation and the term is not made any less negative when it is put in the context of tracking mobile phones. But is it all that bad to track someone else’s phone and to know where that person is located? Today there are several passive location-based service providers (LBS), including Lociloci and FollowUs, which help users “track” other people’s mobile phones in their everyday life. The question is no longer about can this be done, but how is this used and for what purpose?
First of all let’s be clear on a few matters.
To track someone’s mobile phone doesn’t necessarily mean you are always tracking a person’s whereabouts – e.g. if a person forgets their phone or the battery runs out, the person cannot be located with a location-based service.
Second, everyone using such a service can only see the whereabouts of those who accepted to show their location to them. So if you invite your friend to the service, s/he will receive a text message informing them that you want to track their mobile phones. Your friend can then accept or decline the invite. This keeps you from locating someone without them knowing about it. LBS companies give users the full control in deciding if they are going to show their location to other users they have accepted as friends or not.
Third, to further enforce the privacy concerns, LBS companies in the UK for passive tracking must send periodical reminders to the users reminding them that they are using the service and are locating others or being located by others. If they have any concerns about privacy or would like to stop showing their location, they can at any time hide their position.
Familiy tracking for time management & mutual understanding
We see that many of users of passive tracking LBS use the service in the right way when they track mobile phones. These companies should constantly encourage such responsible use of our technology vs. bad usage like spying or snooping on people. For example, many parents see this as an excellent service to keep track of where their loved ones are: their kids, their elderly etc. – to know that they are safe and secure or just know where they are.
If you are a parent you are familiar with the situation where kids often forget to send an SMS or call you when arriving at football practice or music class or simply coming late from a friend’s place. This can cause unnecessary worrying or stress for the parents, and what parent wouldn’t rest easier knowing a bit more about the whereabouts of their kids with a child tracking service.
One user we talked to, a dad to a teenage son, James Robinson, explains how he uses Lociloci mobile tracking service with full understanding and mutual agreement between him and his son:
“I do not use it for spying or anything like that, and my son knows that very well, we have discussed that before. It simply makes me worry less, gives me that peace of mind of knowing where Mark is when he is out mountain biking in the neighborhood or if he is at Kenny’s place still playing video games.”
James’s son Mark (17) says he often forgets to reply back to his dad’s text messages and missed calls particularly when he is off playing video games at his friend place.
“I just simply lose track of time when I’m playing video games with Kenny – we really get into the game and don’t want to break our concentration. I think it is a better solution to let my parents see where I am through this type of service, so they can stop worrying and know that I’m still at Kenny’s place and simply coming home a bit later.”
It’s not only worried families with kids that make great use of mobile phone tracking services, but it is also a great time management tool for many in their everyday life. Picture the situation where you are having your family members and nephews coming over for dinner, with LBS service you can answer the simple questions: Where are my nephews right now, and how much time do I have for cleaning up before they arrive? Can I start preparing dinner already or are they still stuck in traffic?
The important lessons we can learn here is that to track someone’s mobile can be perfectly justified and useful if there is a mutual agreement and understanding for what purpose it will be used for by the family or group of friends. Especially for the nuclear family, it is important that the service is used correctly and that there is an open discussion within the family about the goals of using such a service. Whether that is for safety matters: or not having to stress about having kids come late from school or for curiosity reasons – it’s nice and fun to know that they are there.