By Ennie Conner
We’ve all had that problem: You’ve placed your phone down sometime in the middle of doing homework or talking to friends, and all of a sudden you have a sudden urge to check your Snapchat. But wait—where’s your phone? You instantly start to panic. How are you supposed to upload the last five seconds of your life on Instagram? How will you ever cope without being able to play Fortnite?
Don’t worry, because you have a tracker in your phone. No matter what make or model, the most likely fact is that you have a GPS chip, and an app like Find My iPhone. Sweet relief! Isn’t that a bit creepy, though, to have something that knows exactly where you are and what you’re doing?
Apps like Life360 and Find My iPhone track your exact location through a GPS chip installed into the phone’s hardware. That chip tracks your location at all times, and even if you turn “location” off, it still helps track you by providing a starting point for anyone to track you. There is simply no way to avoid it. This may seem fairly , but it can also act as a safety precaution that is much more useful than you think.
When asked his opinion on these apps, Adelphi psychology major Ryan Mijumbi said the following: “I think tracking on smart devices is inevitable given both the costs and benefits of tracking technology. We have situations where being able to track one's phone allows for [the device] or the whereabouts of a kidnapped individual to be found. On the other hand, tracking technology allows for people to locate individuals without their knowledge, and this information can be used for unethical and criminal purposes. In terms of apps, the same cost/benefit analysis must be done.”
The most popular app by far when speaking about tracking devices is Life360. It has features that provide the ultimate tracking system—not only location services, but an SOS button, crash detection and a useful feature to message the people you are tracking.
These features make it very useful for parents to keep track of their children, or for friends to check up on each other if they’ve gone out, but it also makes it easy for anyone to acquire your location. As Mijumbi said, the cost/benefit of tracking devices really has to be done. For parents that like to keep track of their children, this app is a lifesaver, hence the name. It is fast, accurate and informative, with extra features that make it easy to use.
However, there are downsides. Life360, just like any other app, can be hacked. There have been cases where apps like this have been used to track people who don’t want to be tracked, leading to people stalking and harassing others. Hacking can be as easy as simply changing your phone’s settings. Your location in Life360 can be accessed by anyone who is in your “family,” group on the app, and it only takes one strand of code to change who is in that group. Apps like UltFone iOS Location Changer can spoof your location on any or all the devices connected to any account that tracks location. Even false email advertisements can be dangerous; they sometimes have hidden spyware attached to them and opening them can let that spyware into your phone.
First-year student Dia Deskanker has been using Life360 for a while, and he has had a mostly negative experience. “My parents know exactly when I arrive and leave. It’s not exactly the best thing in the world. I can’t even stop for coffee on the way to class.” Deskanker said that his parents have been using Life360 since he was old enough to have a phone. “It really invaded my privacy,” he complained. “My mom can see everywhere I go and when, and if I go even just the tiniest bit out of my way, I get in trouble.”
Some students think otherwise. “It’s a useful app for parents and to have when you're in college trying to ensure your friends are safe when they're at parties and what not,” said Aleah Tiwari, an English and education major. “I feel safe in terms of government tracking... They do that anyway. If it helps my family and friends know I'm safe, then I feel safe using it.”
In the end, it’s really up to you. Are you comfortable with being tracked by these apps? Is knowing where your friends are every minute of the day really that important?