The Ethics of Tracking your Family ~ Privacy, Surveillance and Geoslavery

Tracking children has become an extremely contentious topic. Norms are being broken and boarders between space and time consequently blurred. It is within our nature to be curious about the actions of others, but when does it become an unethical form of surveillance which is explored in a plethora of fictional media and channels.

The basis and early analysis of this topic will be unpacked further in this blog post including justification and reference to academic, news, political, social and pop culture sources. Through these studies, we can identify the ethical implications surrounding tracking humans and the effects it will have for society. This will be achieved through primary and secondary sources in conjunction with my digital artefact.

If you would like to see the beginning of this research, my thoughts and pre-conceived ideas for the early stages of this project, you can find it here in my previous blog post.


Micro-chipping humans allows for a new way of humans to communicate with digital worlds, technology and cyberspace in regards to explicitly tracking humans. However, are these benefits ethical and do they breach a human’s right to privacy? This cybernetic advancement allows us to expand our physical limitations such as our sight and hearing, enabling us to identify an individual from the comfort of another device.

There are different types of tracking and surveillance which are readily available. Whether it be by phone app, physical tracker in a child’s bracelet or microchip, the function of control, knowledge and surveillance is the same.

However, microchips in humans can be used for more than just tracking or surveillance. The clear difference between the types of surveillance is obviously the physical changes a person has to undergo.

The process of getting a microchip implanted “involves using a hypodermic needle to inject an RFID (radio-frequency identification) microchip, the size of a grain of rice, usually into the person’s hand or wrist. The same kind of chip is used for tracking lost pets.” (Gillespie, 2014). It is humorous that the majority of cases we use to describe these types of technologies relates to the animals we have been using them on for years.

Haraway (1985) argues that this technology not only allows humans to become cyborgs, but transcends the limits of space and time and can assist us in understanding the different ways to think about ourselves being human.

“it no longer makes sense to distinguish between wearing glasses, using contacts, have surgical operations, having cornea implants and having a bionic eye, they are all points of transition on the way to the cyborg” –(Moore, 2018).

It therefore does not seem fair to distinguish between a microchip, mobile phone, tracking app or tracking bracelet as “they are all points of transition on the way to the cyborg.” (Moore, 2018).

In this way, we can identify that Haraway’s ideology of the cyborg can be framed to fit the notion of internalising tracking and surveillance in within humans. Microchipping effects a humans physical conditions becoming directly apart of them unlike other tracking technology as they are only an extension of our senses. This is another clear distinction of how different microchipping technology and other tracking technologies appear but clearly have the same function, thus making us cyborgs by using such technology.

Microchipping children, from a parents perspective, could give the power to save their child’s life if a series of unfortunate events is to unfold.


The video clip above from a British Morning talk show, This Morning, and demonstrates the ethical debate of a child’s right to privacy and a parents right to protect their children. With arguments for both sides, the line between being invasive and being protective becomes extremely blurred as parents don’t know what to do with the technology that is available to them.

For this project I would like to identify the basic ethics which undermine the surveillance and tracking of individuals. Looking at Mcnamee’s (2015) Ethical Issues arising from the Real Time Tracking and monitoring of People Using GPS-based Location Services we can begin to understand the framework and ethical as well as unethical implications of tracking technology.

We can see GPS tracking as a ‘double edged sword. It has many positive and negative ramifications.’ (Mcnamee, 2015). The ethical issues framework has been derived from the research of ‘Mason (1986) and Mason et. al. (1995) and updated by Turban (2002)’ (Mcnamee, 2015) and utilises this research to identify key circumstances which individuals face in relation to basic location based services (LBS).

The ethical issues are divided into four categories being:

  • “Privacy: collection, storage and dissemination of information about individuals.
  • Accuracy: authenticity, fidelity and accuracy of information collected and
  • Property: ownership and value of information and intellectual property.
  • Accessibility: right to access information and payment of fees to access it.”

(Mcnamee, 2015, pp 50).

Within this research and frameworks, Mcnamee conceptualises the commercial and potential uses of this GPS monitoring and surveillance technology. There is direct reference to children’s privacy rights in relation to their parents rights of utilising technology to increase safety (Mcnamee 2015, pp. 51-56).

The strength of Mcnamee’s (2015) research resides within the ethical framework created in attempting to understand the implications of normalising this technology in society. It also identifies the aspect of control and these devices being an ‘intrusive method of supervision’ (Mcnamee, 2015). This correlates strongly to the work of Dobson (2003) in the article ‘Geoslavery.’ It suggests the question of when tracking becomes an equivalent.

Geoslavery is described by Dobson (2013) as a ‘global human rights issue‘ discussing the inherent issues that are indicative of GPS tracking. In this concept, there ‘is the potential for a master to routinely control time, location, speed, and direction for each and every movement of the slave or, indeed, of many slaves simultaneously’ (Dobson, 2003).

In the situation of children, the parent is the master and the child is the slave. The issue of tracking children then does not only involve of privacy and surveillance but becomes especially concerning when children’s ‘rights are stripped from them’ (Thomas, 2016) in favour of their ‘parents control’ (Dobson, 2003).


To some degree, CCTV is already enforcing Geoslavery in modern society. Source.

Dobson (2003) also mentions the notion of fear being a driver for the contemporary use of tracking devices. The speculative narrative (Moore, 2018) being constructed here is not only viable but it establishes a solution to speculating the unknown and creating clarity and sense of security for individuals.

Is this ‘climate of fear‘ that Dobson (2003) refers to is cultivating a dystopian future where we are aware of each others every waking moment and whereabouts, attempting to subdue paranoia and suspicion (Lewis, 2008). By doing this, we revoke any right to privacy and hinder growth of people and individualistic qualities which are created through personal experiences (Barns, 2017).

The fear of our own world in correlation to the unknown breeds a dangerous mindset of permanent surveillance where children lose the essence of being children. As said by Briggs, 2018 “will children still have the same adventures? Make the same discoveries? Get into the same teachable strife?”

By micro-chipping children, we are able to access their location and assume their intentions and motivations for being in a particular place. When children know they are being watched they feel “quite subdued, very conforming, and felt they couldn’t express themselves” (Baker, 2016). This is a clear indication of the unethical nature of surveillance which is transpiring into tracking children. The Big Brother effect is mentioned by Dobson (2003) in relation to how we conform and are being controlled when we are being watched.

This allusion also emphasises the power of location based service technology (LBS). Dobson (2003) describes Big Brother being amaturish as it involves multiple humans observing subjects. Where as ‘LBS can be programmed so that it watches each and every subject, evaluates myriad pathways based on models or sets of rules, and automatically issues instructions and punishments.’ (Dobson, 2003). This notion of a singluar person having complete control over multiple individuals is not only confronting, but extremely reminiscent of fictional cyberpunk societies within texts such as The Hunger Games, Maze Runner Series and Maximum Ride Series. Each of these fictional texts utilise tracking to control and subdue individuals.

In this way, (Dobson, 2003) strongly argues that we are being hindered by the technology and our thoughts are being programmed by this tracking technology as to accept it as being a societal norm. The value of knowledge in a society where perception is reality is extremely powerful. If an individual has knowledge, they not only have control, but they have the ability to breach your privacy.

So does Surveillance Culture have a place in our society of Digital Modernity, whereby “people actively participate in an attempt to regulate their own surveillance and the surveillance of others” (Lyon, 2017) to protect themselves and others?



The above video is a documentary on Surveillance Culture. It is around 20 minutes but deeply discusses the issues that come along with surveillance culture.

Lyon (2017) discusses the way that humans need to think differently in an evolving culture to understand how to utilise these technologies ethically. Culture “implies how to think” (Lyon 2017) so therefore, we need to adjust our thinking in our new culture which adds value to knowledge, control and protection. There are both political and ethical challenges which accompany tracking technology and surveillance including the notion of digital citizenship within countries.

I also agree with Lyon’s (2017) statement “cultures of surveillance, whether critical or complacent, are socially constructed and can thus be challenged and reconstructed” with his strongest argument referring to “consequences of surveillance cultures in everyday life” and urges that the legal and political regulations pertaining to surveillance today is not enough.

The ethical relationship between control, protection and privacy further blurs the right and wrongs of how humans function with abundant amounts of knowledge at their fingertips. A digital age breeds innovation along with discourse and as proven through these articles, distrust.

These articles emphasise the fact that tracking relies on being unethical to support its advantageous ethical benefits.

Digital Artefact

Identifying and utilising feedback from my audience, I believe I was ambitious in my thoughts for my digital artefact. As a result, I have decided to create a single video honing in on the effects of tracking on children through the use of multiple cases through interviews in a video based format.




This medium will not only inform and educate but will also entertain, being visually appealing and story driven. Through this, I believe the artefact will become easily digestible for a contemporary audience while remaining relevant to the research being undertaken.