Who’s tracking you, and why?

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Who’s tracking you, and why?


Confucius believed that filial piety existed to spare parents unnecessary worry, so he said that children should always inform their parents of their whereabouts. He said that children should stay near their parents and refrain from traveling afar. But if travel is necessary, he said that children need to let the parents know where they are going.

The Book of Rites includes the same instruction. As a rule, a child must inform the parents of his destination when he leaves the house, and upon returning, he must see the parents in person to assure that he is safely back home. In today’s terms, your parents must have information about your exact location at all times.

But we are living in an age when children do not need to inform their parents of their location. The invention of GPS has allowed parents to find this information and keep track of their kids’ every move. U.S. based communications provider Verizon even offers a service that allows parents to determine a geographical range in which children can travel. When a child goes out of bounds, Verizon sends an alert to the parents’ mobile phones. Although this kind of monitoring has negative implications, many services using location information have become almost indispensable.

First of all, location information generates great social advantage when used for public purposes. Most notably, the Korea Communications Commission allowed the National Emergency Management Agency to utilize location information in 2005. Its use of the service has cut emergency response times by 37 minutes.

The location information industry that began with navigation has gone through a dazzling evolution. In the United States, the commercial value of personal location information is estimated to be $2 billion per year.

The problem is that information about a person’s location may be used for crime and privacy infringement. A few days ago, police arrested three advertisement agency owners who had secretly collected 210 million pieces of location information on 800,000 smartphone users. Apple has recently stirred a controversy about its collection of iPhone users’ location information. And cell phone users are increasingly anxious about the unintentional release of personal information. Rules and regulations have to be reinforced to control the collection, use and sharing of such data. A location information service should be a blessing, not a disaster.

*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

By Kim Nam-joong
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