Many of the issues raised by Digital Rights Ireland tend to be met with blank faces due to a lack of technical knowledge by those affected. And yet when you try to put things into everyday language, people tell you you’re being alarmist.
Well here’s an absolutely true story about surveillance by mobile phones. “A Dublin security firm is to offer parents a service allowing them to track their child’s movements through the location of the child’s mobile phone”, it says here. There is one preliminary point to be made here, namely that there is absolutely nothing to limit this surveillance to children. The Security company, Top Security, are just using the parent-child thing as a marketing pitch.
This man was able to track his girlfriend, for example. It takes five minutes to register the phone, and the person being spied on need have no idea unless you choose to tell them. You could do it to a workmate’s phone in the time it took them to make a cup of tea. Or your boss could do it to your phone. Or a jealous spouse could do it. The possibilities are endless, though Top Security are understandably not pushing the seedier aspects of it.
And let’s not forget that even using it to track your kids is downright creepy, not to mention a poor replacement for decent parenting and a trusting relationship. Further, it is a breach of their privacy rights which though circumscribed compared to those of adults are still important. Parents do not “own” their children, and cannot simply sign away those rights on their children’s behalf.
Finally, the location information must be made available to the tracking company by the mobile phone companies, something which they are not permitted to do under Data Protection laws. Top Security are promising this service within a month. In the meantime they should be made aware of the problems outlined above, if not by the authorities, then by the public.
UPDATE from Simon: There’s service for you. I alerted DRI to this story this morning and I see that they’ve managed to get the plan shelved by close of business.