Safety vs Stalking - Where to draw the line

Sat, 27 Dec, 2014
By Ashish Basu

The continuing spate of media reports around rape and women safety concerns in Delhi have started to have unexpected consequences.

Sarita is a single, 29 year old executive whose mother stays with her.  Post a particularly heinous incident, Sarita’s mother began calling her at work on a regular basis to make sure she was safe.  The calls would increase after 5pm and would continue till Sarita reached home.  Since she often travelled back with her friends taking calls was becoming embarrassing. One day after the 5th call during the car ride, Amit, one of her colleagues made a suggestion – to download a tracking app onto both hers and her mother’s phone, so her mother could see where she was.

That weekend, Sarita did her research and downloaded a recommended safety app which had the best reviews.  She installed it on both phones.  Now her mother could track her through GPS and could see where she was at all times.  For two weeks, the calls stopped.  Sarita and her mother were both happy.

The third week, Sarita’s phone ran out of battery and she did not remember to put it on the car charger.  She got home to a very frightened mother. What happened? Why cant I see you? She calmed her mother down and explained that it was only because of the battery issue. She promised to buy an extra battery pack so that it did not happen again.

The next week, she wanted to go out for dinner with friends.  She called and told her mother not to worry, because she was going out to a friends house – her mother was not very supportive of her going out for dinner.  But this time when she returned home, there was a big scene.  Her mother had tracked her and figured out that she was not with the friend.  It became clear to her that even switching off the tracker would not help, because her mother would panic more.

After another 6 weeks, Sarita lost her phone and replaced it with a feature phone.  She is back to getting calls from her mom because she can no longer be tracked. And she is happier.

A similar scenario is playing out around the world. The ability to track the movements of a loved one or friend, is very tempting.  The idea of being tracked at all times as a safety method, can easily become a stalking system.  We all need our privacy and also need to be safe.

Solutions are required to ensure ‘peace of mind’. It should be possible to be tracked only when an unwarranted situation happens – not otherwise.

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