What does “privacy” mean in EM Location Tracking context
One of the most troubling aspects (mostly in Europe) while tracking an offender by a “GPS” device is the privacy. My interpretation of it, in this sense, is that the authorities respect the offender’s right to keep his location information to himself, unless this offender performs any breach. In most of the cases, the usage of GPS tracking is to enforce exclusion and inclusion zones (special zones) regime. So if this is the case, why do we need to collect location information while not in the special zones?
What are we trying to achieve with GPS tracking
From the supervision agency perspective, the “GPS” tracking intends to supervise the offender out of his residential place. Trying to understand what it means “to supervise” brings me to the following options:
- Knowing the location of the supervised subject continuously (very high risk, privacy is not an issue, etc.)
- Enforcement of special zones
The location tracking solutions, currently, are serving both options without distinction between the required option. Even if the agency is not interested with the location points of the subject while not in a special zone, the devices are reporting their lat/long points (the location information) which are saved in the memory and data-base of the EM system. I wonder why it is needed for the second point, why do we need to store all location points even if not in the neighbourhood of the special zones? I guess the reason is that from the technology perspective it covers all options. On the other hand, when the agency wants to keep the offender’s privacy, these registered points are prohibited.
How to combine privacy and GPS tracking objectives
The answer is quite simple: let the device report its location only while offender is in violation, such as crossing exclusion zone, or missing the inclusion zone.
There are two main approaches the EM vendors are taking with regards to the “GPS” device capabilities:
- Using a relatively simple device without significant calculations capabilities. The backend EM system is taking care of all calculations. In this approach, most of the devices are not aware of the special zones. They report all the location points and the EM backend system calculates whether there is a zone violation. In such architecture, it is obvious that locations points should be uploaded into the system. This is the first breach of privacy.
- The other approach brings almost complete independency of the location tracking device. These devices are aware of the special zones, they can calculate whether there is a zone violation or not and they can keep many location points in the internal device memory. In addition, these devices report the location point.
Using the second approach devices and disabling the upload of the location points can serve the enforcement of the special zones while maintaining the offender privacy. In order to support high reliability of such an approach, it is highly recommended to have “secondary evidence”, by another location mean, such as LBS.
Another advantage of such an approach may be increased battery life. If there is no need to upload routinely the location points, the device can decide on the enable/disable location mechanism. If the offender is far away from a special zone and movements are low, the location mechanism can be disabled and will extend the battery life.
We will be happy to get your thoughts and feedbacks in order to better understand if this approach can mitigate the conflict of privacy and offender tracking. You can send your feeback here, or by email to email@example.com.