Aug 08 2010
I make no secret of how much I value privacy. Which is weird coming from someone like myself who spends so much time on social networking, blogging and generally shouting my activities to the world. But I control most of that information, which is what privacy is all about in the digital age. So why am I talking about letting my wife track my every move? Because I received a press release about the Family Tracker application for the iPhone and iPad, and rather than just go on a diatribe about how such a system could be misused, I have decided that for the next few weeks I will voluntarily give my wife the ability to track the location of my iPhone anywhere it goes. And since I’m almost never without my iPhone, it means she’ll be able to track my movement at all times. Besides, she just gave me “the Look” when I asked if it was okay for me to track her movements; allowing her to track me was obviously a healthier choice.
I don’t like the idea of tracking of people, especially if they don’t know about it. The potential for abuse far outweighs the benefits in most cases. Whether it’s a spouse or parent abusing the tracking, someone abusing access to the vendor or law enforcement legally tracking someone, I get very nervous about what CAN happen. So when I got the press release for Family Tracker and an offer for promotional codes, I decided it was time to bite the bullet that is my paranoia and see how a tracking program like this is used in real life.
I travel. A lot. In the next few weeks I’ll be crossing the country several times and I’ll be gone from home more than I’ll be there. I post my travel schedule on several calendars around my office, so which city I’m in is rarely a question and I use FourSquare enough that my location has never really been a mystery anyway. But I’ve always been in control of both of these methods of tracking and giving my family a tool to tell where I am almost every moment of the day is new and interesting experience for me. I suspect that my wife will look me up once or twice and then ignore the application 99% of the time. But she has surprised me before.
I’ve set it up so I can track myself and my iPhone from my iPad, so even if my wife doesn’t want to track me, I can still find out more about what the program is capable off. And unless I do something stupid that involves the police, I doubt anyone else will want to track me. If anyone really wants to know my whereabouts, there’s more than enough information already on the Internet to find me if someone takes the time. This will just make it a little easier.
So through the end of the month my little social experiment will be running. After that, we’ll see. It may be that my wife likes being able to track me. Or she may just say, “Meh. If I want to know where you are, I’ll just call.” I’m almost as interested in seeing how she uses Family Tracker as I am in seeing if she thinks being able to track me is worthwhile. I honestly don’t know which way she’ll decide.
After the break is the information the folks at LogSat sent me when I expressed interest in their product, which covers several important questions about how Family Tracker works.
allow me to explain a bit more in detail Family Tracker’s GPS settings.
We have 3 settings of operation for the background GPS tracking. In
“Driving Only” mode we are actually not powering on the GPS, as
the location is being retrieved via the cell towers. The location is
updated only when there is a cell tower change (usually while driving).
If you do not need super precise locations, we strongly recommend using
this setting as it allows for huge battery savings, as the power used by
Family Tracker is practically insignificant. As an example, beginning a
3-hour drive starting with the iPhone fully charged results in still
having a 97% charge left after those 3 hours.
The “Always On”
settings instead do keep the GPS radio in the device on at all times.
This results in a better GPS accuracy, but will also result in a lower
battery life (the charge won’t likely won’t last an entire day). With
both the “Always On 1Km” and the ‘Always On 100m” settings, Family
Tracker will continue to update it’s position even if the phone is
stationary in one position (in 5 minute intervals). This will allow you
to know that Family Tracker is still running on the phone and that the
position being marked on the map is fresh and accurate. This is not
possible to do in “Driving Only” mode.
Going back to the “Driving
Only” mode, a new update (Family Tracker v2.1) recently became
available in the App Store. With this update, when using “Driving Only”
mode, we are briefly firing up the GPS for 20 seconds every time we
detect the phone has stopped moving. This allows us to obtain a rather
accurate position (often within 10-100 meters) as soon as the phone is
still, while at the same time continue to maintain a very, very low
Now to the tracking functionality. The
“Locate Me” screen in Family Tracker lets you add users who you wish to
allow to track you via the web. If you’d like for someone without an
iPhone/iPad to track you, you can add their email address to that
“Locate Me” screen. When you do that, the user will receive an email
with a link that allows them to track you via the web. Please note that
you (the person tracked) are the one initiating the email with the info
on how to track you.
If you instead wish to track someone using
your iPhone, that is done by adding the person you wish to track to
the “Locate Others” screen. When you add the email address of another
person running Family Tracker to the “Locate Others” screen, that person
will receive a tracking request popup on their phone. While your
request is “pending approval”, there will be an orange question mark
next to their name. Once they approve the request, you will receive
a notification yourself on your iPhone to let you know they accepted
your request, and the orange question mark will turn into a green
checkmark. In addition, you will also receive an email with a link that
will allow you to track that person via the web. Again it is important
to note that unless the person being tracked approves that initial
request to be tracked, they will not allow you to track them.
regards to security, you will notice that each time a user is allowed
to track another user, we use a unique alphanumeric (36 possible
characters, with a varying length between 16 and 32 characters, allowing
for between 8E+24 to 6E+49 combinations) code to uniquely identify the
tracking request and make it available via the web. In addition the
“tracked” person can remove “trackers” at any time form their “Locate
Me” screen, which will immediately deactivate the tracking alphanumeric
store in our database the last location reported by the GPS – we do not
store a tracking history. We have had several requests to include the
speed for that location, as many users have a valid point in asking “I
see they are on the highway, I would like to ensure they are still
moving and did not crash…”, so we may add the speed value as
well in a future version.
I hope this helps,