Tracking and Its Popularity
People are extremely curious about what’s going on in other people’s life.
Especially when those people are somewhat close to them. Seems that closeness means mutual trust, but you probably know that in practice it is not always the case. Tracking apps allow knowing what’s going on other phones, from location to messages and files.
It has various purposes. There is some kind of “white-hats” tracking, which I would call mutual tracking: when both people want to be in touch with each other and track locations, or other information, just to be closer.
Another is “grey-hat” tracking, which is non-mutual, but still legal. You can track your child or employee without them knowing, as soon as their phones are yours. When your child becomes an adult, or your workers leave your business, your tracking becomes “black-hat”
(BTW, if you have no idea what those “colored hats”, go there and then go back. It is the term from hacking, which labels hackers based on their intentions. Tracking is similar to hacking in some ways, dealing with someone other’s information, and thus similar terminology is appropriate here. And if you want to read more about tracking apps, let’s go to GetAutoBahn.)
Black-hat tracking is illegal and can be compared with spying. Despite that, it is used widely.
See these statistics from 2017. It was a survey of more than 2000 people from the U.K. and the U.S., with the stated question. You see, almost half of the surveyed people stated that they are either unsure about the legality of black-hat tracking, or think that it is legal. Still, as you’ll see further, it is not the case.
You can avoid the responsibility, but your target is, in fact, your victim, and have a full right to go to court.
Couples are often happy to share their locations with each other, according to the Fatherly article. The main reason is not even curiosity but a simple easiness. When a wife goes to an amusement park, for example, with their children, it is more convenient to track her husband’s location to know that he is secured, contact him directly, and agree about the meeting place.
Child and parents can be connected via tracking apps too: it is an example of non-intrusive parental control. Apps such as Life360 allow locating each other, communicating, and asking for help if in trouble.
It brings a sense of closeness and strengthens trust. Unlike grey- and black-hat tracking, which can break the trust much more readily than create it.
Still, it is widely used, too.
Non-Mutual Tracking: Parental Control or Something Else?
While parental control can be mutual, and I think that it should be mutual in 90% of cases, it is possible to track kids without their consent. I’ve called it the grey-hat tracking: while it is legal, it is not consensual and usually unethical. Despite that, it is necessary sometimes. The parental control can be harsh if your kid’s behavior is terrible and damaging. Even in another case, it is useful to be able to limit the kid’s phone usage, to educate them to be more conscious with their devices.
Another reason for such usage is employee surveillance: watching for employees’ actions on the corporate phones. I think that you have a full right to know that your work phones are used for work.
Black-hat tracking, such as spying on your girlfriend when you want to catch her in adultery, is different.
Here you’re directly intruding into her privacy, learning about those facts that she doesn’t want to share with anyone. There are different situations with husbands and girlfriends, I think that sometimes such actions can be justified. But it doesn’t make it any more legal, despite, as you’ve seen, almost half of people in the U.S. and the U.K. don’t think so.
Here is another example: the popularity of tracking apps. Kaspersky is a popular anti-spyware tool, and the statistics show the number of tracking apps, removed by it, in the first 8 months of 2019. All of them were installed without consent. As you see, the popularity of tracking is a growing trend, along with the popularity of the Internet.
Our curiosity is so terrible sometimes.
Consequences of Tracking
Let’s end by summarizing its consequences.
If your tracking is mutual, there are no wrong consequences as soon as you have explicit consent for tracking.
If you install the app on your device which you give to your kid or employee, things are still clear. The device is, technically, yours. You have the right to install on it whatever you want. But in most cases, people are curious about devices that don’t belong to them.
Here you can have a problem. According to the law describing the concept of intrusion into privacy, there are four types of them:
- Direct intrusion into someone’s private life, such as personal conversation, without the weighty reason such as the court’s decision.
- The usage of the other’s name.
- Publication of facts about other people without their consent.
- Showing the people in a false light in front of the public.
Our case is the first. And, probably, the third if you want to publicize some facts about your target. Specific laws vary from country to country, but such intrusions are usually prohibited. Direct intrusion into privacy in California, for example, may lead to a $1000 fine and risk of being jailed for up to six months.
I think that while the black hat tracking can be justified in some cases, such publication is very unethical in all cases as it can break the person’s life completely. Thus, tracking apps should be never used for this.
It is even more terrible than oppressive parental control.