Do the benefits of GPS trackers, phone GPS, insurance vehicle plug-ins, etc. outweigh the invasion of privacy?

Myrtle Beach, SC, Orlando, FL January 7, 2016

Owatonna, MN Correspondent-Data collection via GPS, cell phones, website tracking, etc. is intrinsically neutral. However, the collected data can be used for good and bad purposes, so the onus is on the data collector to use that data prudently. It’s also imperative for the individual to be aware of what data they are voluntarily sharing and know the possible consequences of that data being used against them.

The Information Age has made data collection and tracking inexpensive and easy. Analyzing the data is where costs come in. nMy fear is that government entities have come to see that doing nothing with collected data won’t justify the costs of the surveillance equipment, analyzing software, and personnel to run and maintain the databases. Therefore, they naturally look for new and creative ways to “find the bad guys” even though they do it the most inefficient way—starting with the assumption that everyone is guilty, and then weeding out the innocents.

The most efficient way has always been, and always will be, to identify the most likely group of perpetrators, and only monitor them when suspicions of wrongdoing are high enough to justify electronic surveillance or data gathering. Unfortunately, individuals who obey the law and follow rules will say, “Go ahead and collect data on me. I have nothing to hide.” This gives government agencies de facto permission to monitor everyone, since they can rightly claim that the majority of the people don’t mind being monitored.

This often spills into the private sector, where online retailers, financial institutions, and software companies can collect myriad data on customers and website visitors without informed consent from individuals. Even though the websites claim transparency with boilerplate “terms of compliance” and “privacy policies,” these disclosures are buried deep in websites. The institutions set up these disclaimers so they are hard to find. Even when the privacy information is easily available, it’s usually worded so vaguely that the average citizen doesn’t understand exactly what data they are agreeing to share. Or, the individual gives up in confusion and figures the time needed to understand their rights isn’t worth taking when they merely want to buy a book on or set up an online banking account.

Despite the benefits offered by GPS, data tracking, and other invasions of privacy, they are overall not a good thing for citizens. Once we get comfortable sharing data over the years with almost anyone, the government will eventually find a way to use that information to further its agenda at the expense of its citizens’ freedoms. If you’re still unconvinced that invasions of privacy are bad, consider what a federal administration led by someone like Donald Trump would do with your personal data.

Prescott Valley, AZ Correspondent-The benefits of GPS trackers, phone GPS, insurance vehicle plug-ins and other devices are effective for public use, but the exceptional advantages of these devices are compromised when their application generates unwanted attention, scrutiny, and abuse such as overzealous law enforcement intervention, insurance company manipulation, and ethics predicaments that give rise to just what the devices were designed to access in the first place.

Privacy issues occur with trackers, plug-ins and other devices when they interfere with normal everyday routines and cause legal and ethical problems for ordinary, law-abiding citizens. The built-in structure of the devices and the tracking capabilities are such that they can be monitored and traced on a regular basis, and technology has developed monitoring application systems for various GPS devices through Location-Based-Services (LBS), which basically report where a person using the device is located. Global Positioning Systems (GPS) are valuable when they involve direction giving, emergency situation resolution, locations for emergency facilities, and for tracking use that involves pinpointing a vehicle or person that is in need of emergency assistance.

LBS systems increase the possibility of a user’s information falling into the wrong hands and enabling access to the actual location of a person and their comings and goings. Personal safety becomes an issue as a person can be tracked and followed on a continuous basis. In addition, with the preponderance of wireless networks and services, information is easily manipulated and with in-depth knowledge of such systems, others not directly connected to the provider can get into the systems themselves and gain access to a customer’s records through fraudulent means. Data can be captured through signals that are emitted as well. This kind of access raises ethical questions such as general misuse of the system, endangerment, and the general loss of respect for the privacy rights of others.

Now, many insurance companies are offering sizable discounts on auto insurance if insured individuals allow their driving habits to be tracked through required or voluntary pilot programs for plug-in monitoring of GPS devices. The plug-ins record information as to how fast individuals drive, their stopping and departure patterns, what time of day they drive, and how long they remain in one area. That information is recorded and sent back to the insurance company for possible infractions, which likely include suspicions of law violations that can lead to police involvement along with monitoring of bad driving habits, and assessment for rate increases.

Insurance companies are also exploring pay-as-you-drive programs that would institute fluctuating rates that would be based on a customer’s risk evaluation. Not only would insurance companies be profiling, tracking and assessing a customer’s every driving move, but they would be evaluating drivers for so-called infractions. Insurance companies would also be gaining monetarily in monthly insurance premiums through such at-risk programs.

As LBS technology continues to expand and becomes easier to use and afford, more and more people will acquire GPS services either through adaptation to cell phones, GPS systems housed within their vehicles, plug-ins, and other devices to take advantage of the benefits provided. Will users be aware of the detrimental effects of such systems and realize that their user devices could be monitored and misleading information transferred as to their whereabouts on a non-stop basis? Worse yet, do they want their information hacked and distributed by those who want to either harm them, stalk them or violate their rights for criminal intent or simple prank amusement?

GPS device users will have to determine what their privacy is worth when location based services become standard everyday fare. Whoever thought that locating a simple address, county road, shopping center, historical site, or other location, or making phone connections would turn into monitored activities? When it comes to the latest GPS tracking technology, convenience may have to go by the wayside in exchange for safety, ethical stability, and peace of mind.

Gastonia, NC Correspondent– While I’m a firm believer in civil liberties and the individual’s right to privacy, I also live in the real world and I understand that I trade my privacy on a daily basis for conveniences that make my life easier. When I need to find the nearest taqueria, I’m fully aware that Siri is using satellites to locate me and my quarry, and that that information might possibly be viewed by others with the proper clearance (or hacking ability).

We’ve all seen the crime shows where the police track someone using their cellphone. That’s done by triangulation, using the three cell towers nearest the phone being tracked, and it’s an inexact science, especially when done by small- or medium-sized departments that can’t afford state-of-the-art hardware. Just as “CSI” did a disservice to prosecutors everywhere by making DNA seem like the be-all and end-all of investigative techniques, other high-tech cop shows make us believe that our cellphones can be used to pick out precisely where we are at any point in time.

The one technological gizmo that gives me serious pause, however, is the “driving monitor” gadget offered by companies such as Progressive insurance. As far as I understand, it’s some sort of “black box” that tracks how you drive, and assigns a commensurate risk score to your driving habits and sets your rates accordingly.

I’m sure we all drive the speed limit all the time, right? Here in the greater Charlotte area, if you drive the speed limit on any major freeway during an off-peak hour, you’re going to get turned into road pizza by a barreling semi. So does the device allow for driving at a “safe” speed rather than at the speed limit? I don’t have enough data about the algorithms behind the technology, and that makes me deeply suspicious about allowing it to judge my driving. I haven’t (knocking wood) had an at-fault accident in my entire adult driving life, but I do on occasion have a lead foot.

I think I’ll let the insurance company keep the gizmo for now.

Sheffield, Jamaica Correspondent-Imagine a device capable of providing Intel on your location at any given time. Imagine a tool, once used by the military, but now placed into the hands of civilians, available 24/7. Sounds like an interesting device, doesn’t it? But what if your privacy was invaded on by these GPS devices? Would you be slighted, even a little or would you welcome these technologies, even though your privacy would be at an all-time breach? That’s a thought provoking question.

GPS trackers have made stunning advancements to our society. Especially with vehicle plug-ins, managers are able to pin-point where a particular vehicle is in case there’s need for assistance. This improves safety, minimizes fuel costs, aids in recovering stolen items, lowers costs of operations and increases productivity. However, despite all those seeming advantages, do they outweigh the invasion of privacy? That’s a resounding no and I’ll just mention a few reasons why. With a GPS device, the Government can track people’s movements, reveal their private relationships and associations and sneak on personal text messages. Overall, if the Government or a curious police officer is allowed to track and monitor your movement, they’ll know EXACTLY who you are as a person and where to find you. Do you want strangers handling that sort of intel, even criminals? Probably not! Though GPS has impacted our world greatly, it has seriously infringed on our privacy and should not be allowed to fall into the hands of ANYONE.

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