A Battle Between Security and Privacy
A Battle Between Security and Privacy: When it Come to Tracking Apps Who Really Wins?
It’s 8:20 am. Do your parents know where you are right now?
Apps such as Life360, Find my Friends, Find my iPhone and so many more have been at the forefront of conversations surrounding the privacy of minors and young adults. Although these apps can give parents and teens a sense of security, they also raise questions about teen privacy and autonomy. While these products are marketed as location tracking apps, they include many features that keep an eye on the iPhone user. For example, Life360, lets you share your location with friends or family, or what the company calls “your Circle.” Further, Life360 allows family members to see how fast people in their circle are driving, how much battery their cell phone has, places location alerts, shares driving history, offers help alert, and produces a location estimated time arrival.
In an interview with Dean McGuire, she provided her opinion on how parents have contributed to the rise of tracking apps within American families, “I think that parents have gotten to a place of this feeling of somehow we can be better parents if we can control everything about our kids, and we have to know everything about our kids, and I don’t think that is true. Honestly, I think teenagers deserve privacy.”
Dean McGuire continued by stating how she worries that “we are breaking down the real honest communication that we want to exist with parent and child. The amount of technological snooping that goes on is problematic, I don’t understand how you can develop a trusting relationship if it’s based on having a data point that can back up this level of trust.”
Junior Julianna Swygert commented on her experience with Life360: “I like that when I get lost my parents can see me.” However, she says “I don’t like that my parents can see when I speed. Especially when on the highway.” She added, “They can see when you touch your phone. Even when you turn your volume up and down it says phone touched.” Julianna has the premium version of Life360, therefore, it allows her parents to see more information about when she is on her phone.
Senior Foster Belevetz, who is also a premium user of Life360, stated that “for the most part [the app] has been kinda negative. I feel as if it has been too intrusive because my parents can always track the speed I am driving and where I am all the time.” He continued by stating that, “It’s probably helpful for them, but I will be in college next year so I would want a little bit more freedom.”
Senior Jay Cunningham expressed that he doesn’t “like it because I feel like I’m just being tracked.” He then said, “It’s kind of creepy” and he feels like “it takes away freedom because you feel like everywhere you go you are being watched.”
In a poll sent to the Upper School student body, out of 44 responses, 42 percent of respondents stated their families use Find my Friends as a source of monitoring their children’s locations, while 30 percent of respondents stated their families use Life 360, and 25 percent stated their families do not use a tracking app.
When asked if they have had a positive experience with these tracking apps, 54 percent of respondents stated “yes” while 46 percent of respondents stated “no.” Further, when asked if they agree with the use of tracking apps, 58 percent of respondents stated “no,” while 41 percent of respondents stated “yes.” When invited to elaborate on their answer, one senior stated that “While I do sometimes feel like tracking apps violate my privacy, I have the reassurance that my parents always know where I am and can make sure I'm safe should anything go wrong if I'm out somewhere.” A junior stated that tracking apps violate their privacy “because I hate the idea of someone watching me 24/7.”
Finally, when respondents were asked if they believe the use of these tracking apps was an invasion of their privacy, 65 percent of respondents stated “yes” while 34 percent of respondents stated “no.”
Dean McGuire spoke to the issue of privacy saying, “students search for privacy in other areas of their lives.” Dean McGuire connects parents using tracking apps to following their children on Instagram. She thinks that while every generation of parents makes mistakes, “the digital age” parents are too involved in their child’s lives. Students use apps and private accounts to hide pieces of their lives from parents.
Consumers of Life 360 may want to consider the way their information is stored and shared. The app was created by American Chris Hulls, and according to its website,
“We may share your personal information with our third-party business partners, vendors, and consultants who perform services on our behalf or who help us provide our Services, such as accounting, managerial, technical, marketing or analytic services.” Life360 continues by elaborating on where their consumer’s personal information goes and how it is used. “Personal information such as customer names and email addresses, and other user information related to the Service will likely be one of the items transferred in these types of transactions.”
Life360 gives consumers an option to “opt-out of future sharing of your precise location data with our third-party partners by adjusting your settings on your mobile device to prohibit Life360 from collecting your location data. For example, depending on your mobile device, you may be able to “Turn location services ‘off.’” However, by turning location services off the app will longer function.
In an article written on July 12, 2019, by WIRED, the author explains how Life360 shares its user’s data to “sell car insurance”. The author goes on to describe how “with the risk-assessment firm Arity, which uses that information to calculate insurance pricing and ‘develop risk-predictive models for its own analytics purposes.’ Arity is a subsidiary of the insurance giant Allstate, which is also an investor in Life360. In its prospectus earlier this year, Life360 said it hopes to soon offer US customers Allstate insurance plans that are customized based on how they drive.”
In addition to tracking apps, Dean McGuire also touched on how tracking children can deter trust within a parent-child relationship. “Because parents have wanted to get so into their kids’ lives parents were just monitoring text messages, monitoring Instagram. You know initially it was monitoring Facebook and so, you know, kids jumped off Facebook and onto Instagram. Most kids understand their parents are following them so they might have a finsta or several different Instagrams that are underground. It forces kids to go underground to grab some sense of privacy and it’s age-appropriate to want a sense of privacy.”
Many children with these tracking apps use hacks and methods to disable some of the features of the app. When Julianna was asked if she used any hacks, “I run my battery down to below ten percent and then turn my location off. This notifies [my parents] that the battery is low and then I recharge it.” This hack does not allow her parents to track her location once her battery is below 10 percent.
Full disclosure: Our families use Life360 also. Here are our opinion of the app.:
As a daily user of Life360, the app has provided an extra cushion of safety within my family and has given my parents an extra dose of information to make pick ups easier to and from events. However, at times Life360 does have glitches that do not correctly give my location to my family which at times is frustrating. Further, the app is sometimes too invasive when it comes to the speed I am driving at, or giving my family alerts when I arrive and leave school and home. In the end, Life360 does establish a sense of security and peace of mind within my family.
My family and I have been using Life360 since I was in middle school, and it has provided us with the necessary security when finding my phone when lost or picking me up an undefinable location. While the app has made us feel more secure, I want to establish my own freedom without the constant observation of the app. By disabling the app I go to Life360 in settings. I then flip the switch to off on option of the app using cellular data, but I also turn my wifi off. This doesn’t send a notification to any other users and the app displays you at the last location it was turned off. While this hack is helpful, I am grateful for the app’s services.
“For the most part it has been kinda negative i feel as if it has been to intrusive because my parents can always track the speed I am driving”
It’s probably helpful for them especially but I will be in college next year so I would want a little bit more freedom. They have alluded to him having the app in college
“I don’t like it because I feel like I’m just being tracked.”
“It’s kind of creepy”
“I feel like it takes away freedom because you feel like everywhere you go you are being watched”
What are these apps? How do they work?
Quotes from students
NYT - national data, pros, and cons
Who owns Life 360? Where does your data go?
“So okay I think that parents have gotten to a place of this feeling of somehow we can be better parents if we can control everything about our kids, and we have to know everything about our kids and I don’t think that is true honestly I think teenagers deserve privacy”
I think the amount of technological snooping that goes on is problematic, I don’t understand how you can develop a trusting relationship if it’s based on having a data point that can back up this level of trust
Parents have gotten so involved in their child’s’ lives that was how Snapchat was created. And I also think that because parents have wanted to get so into their kid’s lives parents they were just monitoring text messages, monitoring Instagram. You know initially it was monitoring Facebook and so you know kids jumped off Facebook and into Instagram. Most kids understand their parents are following them so they might have a finsta or several different Instagrams that are underground. It forces kids to go underground to grab some sense of privacy and it’s age-appropriate to want a sense of privacy.
As a parent, were supposed to be setting you up to best the most ‘you can take of your life as an adult’
I think it's harder for parents to let go of the monitoring once they have started the monitoring
It’s ok for our kids to have independence and have freedom
I worry are we breaking down the real honest communication that we want to have exist with parent and child
We have not done a really good job of building independence within our kids
I like that when I get lost my parents can see me.
I don’t like that my parents can see when I speed. Especially when on the highway.
They can see when you touch your phone. Even when you turn your volume up and down it says phone touched.
Do you use any hacks?
Yes, she runs her battery down to below ten percent and then she turns her location off. This notifies that her battery is low and then she recharges it.