Metropolitan Digital

The Conversation

  • Written by Joel Michael Reynolds, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, University of Massachusetts Lowell

The use of self-tracking[1] and personal surveillance technologies has grown considerably over the last decade. There are now apps to monitor people’s movement[2], health[3], mindfulness[4], sleep[5], eating habits[6] and even sexual activity[7].

Some of the more thorny problems arise from apps designed to track others, like those made for parents to track their kids[8]. For example, there are specific apps that allow[9] parents to monitor their child’s GPS location, who they call, what they text, which apps they use, what they view online and the phone number of their contacts.

As a bioethicist[10] who specializes in the ethics of emerging technologies, I worry that such tracking technologies are transforming prudent parenting into surveillance parenting.

Here are three reasons why.

1. Companies are tracking for profit

The first reason has to do with concerns over the tech itself.

Tracking apps are not primarily designed[11] to keep children safe or help with parenting. They are designed to make money[12] by gathering loads of information to be sold[13] to other companies.

A 2017 report from a marketing research firm estimates that self-monitoring technologies for health alone will reach gross revenues of US$71.9 billion[14] by 2022.

The lion’s share of the profit is not in the device itself, but in the data drawn from its users.

To get as much data as they can, these apps work hard to keep one constantly using them via push notifications and other design techniques.

This data is then often sold to other companies – including advertising agencies[15] and political campaign firms[16]. The primary aim of these devices is not people’s well-being, but the profit that can be made off of their data.

When parents track children, they help companies maximize their profits. Should a child’s information become de-anonymized and fall into the wrong hands, this could put one’s child at risk.

2. Risks of leaking private data

There are also significant privacy risks[17].

A 2014 study by the security firm Symantec found that even devices that do not appear to be traceable can still be tracked wirelessly,[18] as a result of insufficient privacy features.

Why parents should think twice about tracking apps for their kids Data from tracking can be misused. Josep Suria[19]

That same year, a study by computer scientists at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found that many Android mobile health applications, for example, send unencrypted information over the Internet[20]. Nearly all of these apps monitor one’s location. Researchers at MIT and the Catholic University of Louvain found that just four time-stamped locations[21] could uniquely identify 95% of individuals, making promises of anonymity hollow.

Information related to people’s whereabouts can reveal valuable data about them. In the case of children, their tracking data could very easily be used by someone else.

3. It can break trust

Another reason why tracking one’s child is worrisome has to do with the risk of breaking their trust.

Social scientists have shown that trust is central to close relationships[22], including healthy parent-child relationships. It is necessary[23] for the development of commitment and feelings of security. A child’s sense of personal privacy is a crucial component[24] of this trust.

A 2019 study shows monitoring a child can undermine the sense of trust and bonding. In fact, it can become counterproductive[25] to the point of pushing the child further towards rebellion.

This risk, I would argue, is perhaps far more serious than those leading parents to track their children in the first place.

A few exceptions

While I think that tracking one’s child is often unethical, there are some cases where it may be warranted.

If a parent has good reasons to suspect that their child is suicidal, involved in violent extremism, or engaged in other activities that threaten their life or that of others, the best course of action may involve breaking trust, invading privacy and monitoring the child.

But those are the exceptions, not the rule. Think twice before tracking your kids.

Editor’s note: This piece is part of our series on ethical questions arising from everyday life. We would welcome your suggestions. Please email us at ethical.questions@theconversation.com[26].

References

  1. ^ self-tracking (papers.ssrn.com)
  2. ^ movement (www.fitbit.com)
  3. ^ health (www.researchgate.net)
  4. ^ mindfulness (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  5. ^ sleep (www.wired.com)
  6. ^ eating habits (www.healthaffairs.org)
  7. ^ sexual activity (www.tandfonline.com)
  8. ^ track their kids (www.huffpost.com)
  9. ^ there are specific apps that allow (www.mspy.com)
  10. ^ bioethicist (joelreynolds.me)
  11. ^ not primarily designed (www.tandfonline.com)
  12. ^ to make money (www.theguardian.com)
  13. ^ to be sold (haystack.mobi)
  14. ^ US$71.9 billion (www.bccresearch.com)
  15. ^ advertising agencies (ads.google.com)
  16. ^ political campaign firms (www.nytimes.com)
  17. ^ privacy risks (theconversation.com)
  18. ^ can still be tracked wirelessly, (www.symantec.com)
  19. ^ Josep Suria (www.shutterstock.com)
  20. ^ unencrypted information over the Internet (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  21. ^ time-stamped locations (www.nature.com)
  22. ^ close relationships (www.academia.edu)
  23. ^ necessary (www.researchgate.net)
  24. ^ crucial component (heinonline.org)
  25. ^ it can become counterproductive (www.sciencedirect.com)
  26. ^ ethical.questions@theconversation.com (theconversation.com)

Authors: Joel Michael Reynolds, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, University of Massachusetts Lowell

Read more http://theconversation.com/why-parents-should-think-twice-about-tracking-apps-for-their-kids-114350

Metropolitan republishes selected articles from The Conversation USA with permission

Visit The Conversation to see more

Entertainment News

Phish’s 2018 Fall Tour to Conclude with Four Performances at MGM Grand Garden Arena

LAS VEGAS (May 15, 2018) – Phish, the American rock band known worldwide for its dedicated fan base, recently announced a 14-date Fall tour which will conclude in Las Vegas with four performances at...

Blane Ferguson - avatar Blane Ferguson

Dave Damiani and The No Vacancy Orchestra are “Bending The Standard”

Tina Sinatra, Dave Damiani & Landau Murphy Jr. celebrate 100 years of Frank Sinatra in Los Angeles There have been stories about independent filmmakers, but how about the independent big band...

Tom Estey - avatar Tom Estey

Billboard Chart-Topping Saxophonist VANDELL ANDREW Returns With New Single

From the vantage point of 30, his age and the name of his infectious, sensually grooving new full length album, Vandell continues to be fueled by the impressive roar of accolades and achievements th...

Metropolitan Digital - avatar Metropolitan Digital

Metropolitan Business News

Office Cleaner Takes Ownership of the Neglected Dishwasher

In an office that a dishwasher is being used communally, it is pretty difficult to set rules on how a certain appliance needs to be taken cared of. A dishwasher is a responsibility of no one until you...

News Company - avatar News Company

Amazing tips to become a successful trader

Everyone is working very hard to secure their financial freedom. Most of the people find it hard to support their family even after having a 9-5 day job. For this very reason, people often look for ...

News Company - avatar News Company

Best Practice For Young Professionals Working Through HR Internships

The industry of human relations is vitally important to the health and prosperity of a business.   Whether they are operating in textile manufacturing, accounting, sports, IT development or hospit...

News Company - avatar News Company

4 Easy Steps To Gaining SEO Momentum For Your Business

SEO (search engine optimisation) does not have to be a tiresome and overbearing exercise that diverts attention away from the core functions of a business.   SEO Shark affirms this as a smart and ...

News Company - avatar News Company

How to Manage An SEO Project On Limited Funds

SEO operators don’t need thousands upon thousands of dollars to become successful.   What SEO practitioners needs more than ever is the skills and diligence to identify problems that are acting a...

News Company - avatar News Company

An Introduction To Coworking For Australian Business Owners

Advancing technology is bringing with it great advantages in communications and networking, and to survive in business you need to keep up. With the rate at which everything changes these days, that...

News Company - avatar News Company

Holidays

New Baggage Regulations to Help Aussie Parents Travel with Infants

Travelling around the globe has never been easy, especially when infants tag along for the trip. One of the main issues that parents often have to deal with is the need to bring extra item...

News Company - avatar News Company

Maya Beach Opens to Tourists

Despite recent reports that Southern Thailand's famous Maya Beach will close for three months this year, in fact no decision to this effect has been made by Thai authorities. Phi Phi Nati...

Maevadi Rosenfeldt - avatar Maevadi Rosenfeldt

SKYN LAUNCHES GUIDE TO THE BEST PLACES TO GET INTIMATE

SKYN®, Australia’s best-selling condom*, today launches its very first SKYN® Places of Intimacy Guide.   Curated in partnership with GQ Magazine and Conde Nast, the Guide features 30 lux...

SKYN - avatar SKYN