Wisconsin based tech company Three Square Market made headlines recently when they gave employees the option to have microchips implanted under their skin (between their thumb and forefinger) that would allow the employees to scan into work, buy food from a vending machine, use the printer, and enjoy other conveniences.
The controversial move left pundits wondering where was the line? Could employers use the chip to track employee behaviors in unintended ways? Would my boss know I'm the one who continually leaves behind a hopelessly jammed copier?
Well, not afraid of controversy, the company is at it again, this time by launching a new app called "Mom I am OK".
Here's how it would work with your child.
First, GPS technology links with your child's mobile phone and draws a map of wherever he/she has been. Then, you and your child would set agreed upon times for check-ins. The child receives reminders it's time to check-in and then sends a simple "Mom I am OK" message.
If he/she fails to check-in for whatever reason, you'll still know where your child is (as long as they still have their phone with them). The app even uses geo-fencing technology to alert you when your child leaves a specific area.
In an interview with The Washington Post, Three Square Market's President, Patrick McMullen, indicated that the $9/month app uses technology that's nearly identical to a program the company sells to law enforcement officials. The application enables police to monitor movements of parolees (a substitute for the old-fashioned ankle bracelet).
This hints at the controversy behind the app.
While the app would undoubtedly be helpful in tracking down missing children, some worry that law enforcement could use it improperly to gather evidence--for example, in tracking a teen involved in illegal activities. Where is the privacy line drawn? Where would use "for the greater good" go too far?
The world isn't getting any safer. So, I think technology like this has a place as long as it's used in moderation and with very clear rules and regulations of fair use spelled out up front.
I say used in moderation, by the way, because it shouldn't become the only solution. I think old school can be a new school of thought here.
Use the original app to stay connected with your kids as well.
It's called trust and truth. And mutual respect.
For many in my generation (I'm 50 years old), we'd eat breakfast on Saturday morning and off we went. Mom and Dad's directive was to a) be home before dark for dinner, b) be kind to your brother, c) don't bike in the road. And that was about it.
Somehow, I miraculously survived. For crying out loud, I remember using a broken piece of glass for second base in a field we'd play unsupervised whiffle ball in.
I know, I know. These are different times. I don't dispute that nor do I dispute the need to stay closer, even using technology to help you do so.
But I also know I was given such freedom become of the foundation of trust and truth-telling I'd built with my parents. There was a mutual respect; they wouldn't helicopter in and would respect my need for independence if I'd respect that they were parents and their job was to worry. So, it took a little effort on both parts, maybe a quick bike ride back to the house for me, to stop in and say, "Mom, I am OK". For them maybe it was letting me go to 7-Eleven for a giant Slurpee by myself on my cool red Schwinn, despite their worry.
The truth probably lies somewhere between the original app and the new app. Both have a part in today's world. As long as the outcome is that kids and their parents better connect, it could be by telegram for all I care.