Have you noticed that technology seems to advance almost faster than our awareness of its progress? First there were mobile phones, then SMS replaced phone calls, followed by picture messages, and now social networks including things like SnapChat and Instagram. Any child with a cell phone is now able to communicate in more ways than a parent can reasonably keep track of, leading to concerns about the content and quality of these digital conversations. There are new monitoring apps that offer the ability to track much of the activity on a cell phone, but are these apps really making a difference?
The controversy surrounding the NSA and privacy concerns related to social media have certainly brought privacy to the forefront of our societal subconscious, along with heightening our sensitivity to it. Yet there is no denying that with all new technology comes the increased aptitude for malicious behavior, or even accidental damage due to a lack of awareness about the technology in question. On the other hand, a lot of our decreased privacy is voluntary as people continually choose convenience over security.
With new trends such as ‘sexting’ and various chat programs that encourage making new friends, it’s easy to understand why a concerned parent might want to ensure the safe and responsible cell phone usage of their child.
It is not limited to parents and children however, distrusting spouses can track their partners whom they suspect of illicit behavior. Some corporations monitor the cell phones usage of employees with company phones with keyloggers and similar software. There are many reasons why anyone would want to monitor cell phone usage.
The downside to these systems is that good intentions can, and will, be twisted to suit poor intentions. There have been tragic instances where abusive husbands have used cell phone monitoring services to track fleeing wives, with the altercation sometimes ending violently. Similarly, over protective parents could do long lasting harm by being overly intrusive in their teens’ lives, though this is an age old problem that is only given a new medium with monitoring technology. As with any new technology, there are those who will fear it and those who will abuse it. The good news is that cell phone providers and the legal system are also advancing and rules are being put in place to prevent abuses, including untrackable devices for abuse victims and mandatory notification when tracking elements are in effect.
There are, of course, positives to cell phone monitoring. Whether it be a parent, a spouse or a corporation, there are legitimate reasons someone would want to track another person. Children are notoriously poor decision makers and most parents would say they don’t want to stop their child from living life and having fun, but not at the expense of their health or their future. Trust issues aside, a spouse is better off knowing if their partner is not trustworthy and corporations are better off knowing if any employee is wasting company time or, worse, trading secrets.
Though, beyond the exposure of dangerous secrets, there are other benefits to tracking software. If your child or spouse gets lost or into an accident and are unable to call you for help, then the tracking software could be used to deduce their location or even pinpoint it using a GPS tracker. Corporations with mobile salesmen might have an urgent potential sale and can send the closest salesmen to the location without wasting time tracking everyone down the old fashioned way.
Additionally, in most states, no warrant is required by the police to access cell phone records and tracking data meaning that in the event of a crisis involving another person, the police could save valuable, life saving time by tracking both the assailant and your loved one in an effort to save them.
In the immediate future, cell phone monitoring may get the most attention in the court system. Privacy is on everyone’s mind and it is reasonable to expect that some will fight to get it back into their own hands. Legally, however, parents are well within their rights to track phones that they paid for, the same goes for spouses and corporations. Without a public, obvious threat to individual safety, it seems more likely that cell monitoring will continue to advance unchecked by those who may fear it.
At the end of the day, whether or not to monitor is a choice that each person must make for themselves. It may feel too invasive for some, while for others it could be a necessity. Given the diversity of people, background and lifestyles in our country it would be difficult to apply a blanket standard that fit everyone’s needs. It may not be for everyone, but there is no denying that growing advantages it provides to keep families and loved ones safe.