The false promise of GPS tracking gadgets

The false promise of GPS tracking gadgets

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Recent publicity about child abductions has led many companies to prey on public fears by advertising their trackers as useful for protecting children. While wristwatch-type gadgets like the GPS Personal Locator from Wherify Wireless and the Digital Angel from Applied Digital Solutions do have some valuable applications – such as finding hikers lost in the wilderness or keeping track of pets – rescuing children from serial killers is probably not one of them.

Anyone who believes that any of the recent spates of abductions and murders could have been prevented if only the youngsters had been wearing a GPS (global positioning system) tracking device, should think again. Unless the abductor is exceptionally stupid, such gadgets are easy to spot and remove – and would no doubt be tossed out the car window in short order.

It is more likely that law enforcement officials will use GPS and other location technologies to track criminals – or rather, to backtrack and nail them – after a crime has occurred and an ex-con, or someone with a criminal history, is placed in its general vicinity. However, that kind of use will open a Pandora’s box of legal and privacy issues, according to Entner and IDC analyst Keith Waryas. In abduction cases, for example, the temptation may be great to track someone or to engage in search and seizure activity without waiting to obtain a proper warrant.

Wherify(wireless newsfactor)claims that its device lets parents locate their children via the Internet within a minute. And it comes with a panic button that allows a child to signal if he or she feels in danger. The devices have locks so that can parents can secure them on their children’s wrists. They can also lock the locators remotely.