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

Tracking children has become an extremely contentious topic within our technologically advancing society. 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 nature of micro chipping humans and the ethical implications it will have on society through primary and secondary sources in conjunction with my digital artefact.


Micro-chipping humans allows for a new way of humans to communicate with digital worlds, technology and cyberspace. However, are these benefits ethical and do they breach a human’s right to privacy? Through the utililisation of cybernetic technologies such as microchips in humans. 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.

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. 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.

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.

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.