Metro

  • 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

Violin ReEnvisioned

Falling in love with music so young was more than transformative. Music became the lead sheet of my life; challenging me to navigate changes with grace, maintain a steady rhythmic groove, dynami...

Chelsey Green - avatar Chelsey Green

Kadda Sheekoff Win Best Urban Song For "All My Life"

Singer Kadda Sheekoff have emerged as the toast of the 2020 Songdew Pause&Play. Obviously, there are many composers who deserve the award more than Kadda Sheekoff, but the decision of the S...

Media Release - avatar Media Release

A Musical Journey: The Authentic Ted Cline

Ted Cline was born in 1962 as the 11th of 13 children.  His parents were hard-working tobacco share-croppers in Weston, Missouri. By the time he was eleven, he was sneaking downstairs to play his...

Ted Cline - avatar Ted Cline

Angela Predhomme - My Musical Journey

Determined to “make it” in the music industry as a songwriter, I meticulously crafted the best songs I could and pitched them to industry gatekeepers. “THIS one’s got to be IT,” I thought. But ala...

Angela Predhomme - avatar Angela Predhomme

GREYE: “So Far So Good”

“So Far So Good” After seven plus years firing up venues up and down the Atlantic Coast and throughout the Midwest to the breakneck tune of 90-110 annual shows, it’s definitely been jarring fo...

News Company - avatar News Company

The life and times of Wendy Moten

I never thought I would be in the music business, much less a recording artist. I never saw it coming. I thought I'd be a corporate attorney or something like that. Little did I know that anothe...

Wendy Moten - avatar Wendy Moten

CARY PARK “You Matter to Me”

“You Matter to Me” In any other time, Cary Park’s stunning new single “You Matter to Me” might be just another beautiful heartfelt love song, an outpouring of personal affection towards a cheri...

News Company - avatar News Company

TED CLINE ... Country Music Done Right

Country Music Done Right When Ted Cline uses the phrase “Country Music Done Right” to describe his engaging vibe, the Kansas City area-based singer/songwriter isn’t simply being crafty or clev...

News Company - avatar News Company

LAMONT DOZIER, JR. “Why Can’t We Be Lovers”/”I’m Gonna Take My Time”

When it comes to enduring musical legacies, it’s always inspiring when the melodic, grooving evergreen apples drop so close to the tree. The son and namesake of legendary singer, songwriter and re...

News Company - avatar News Company

Metropolitan Business News

MODEL/ACTOR THORN CASTILLO IS THE “NEW FACE” OF SCHICK STYLIST

In 2019, just as his multi-faceted career was taking off, Thorn Castillo heard Robert Downey Jr. offer a sage bit of advice during an interview on photographer/director Sam Jones’ acclaimed multi-...

News Company - avatar News Company

New Research Highlights Opportunities for Sports Betting

Revenue Stream for Sports’ Post-COVID-19 Recovery Strategies New Rochelle, NY, June 1, 2020— Twenty-four states have now legalized sports betting, with more states considering legalization la...

Len Stein - avatar Len Stein

How to make overseas transfers easier?

Mainstream banks can charge as much as $20 just to process a basic international money transfer. Fortunately, today people are not doomed to handling personal finances only through mainstream gl...

News Company - avatar News Company

The flourishing international market of fragrance and perfume

There is something special and unique about the art of fragrance. This is a big world and there are quite literally a lot of smells around at any given time. In fact, as one of the five human senses i...

News Company - avatar News Company

Impact of good marketing on sales

Sales and marketing are brothers as they go hand and in hand. The job of both of these departments is to generate revenue so that an organization can make money. A company that does not generate rev...

News Company - avatar News Company

7 effective tips for increasing sales in retail

It seems that retailers have drawn a difficult lot in the 21st century: competition from online retail is growing steadily. After all, Internet retailers can sell your products at significantly lowe...

News Company - avatar News Company

Holidays

5 COOL GADGETS TO CARRY FOR A SAFE TRIP

Are you planning to go on a trip? Possibly, you do not know what things are most necessary on a trip. In this article, we will guide you through some important tips. These tips help you to...

News Company - avatar News Company

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