Ethics and Information Technology

, Volume 18, Issue 3, pp 175–184 | Cite as

‘I keep a close watch on this child of mine’: a moral critique of other-tracking apps

  • Katleen GabrielsEmail author
Original Paper


Smartphones and mobile applications are omnipresent in our lives. At the core of this article are ‘other-tracking apps’, i.e. mobile applications that make it possible, via location technology, to track others. These apps ensure that we are never unconnected from the network of ubiquitous information and, via that network, from others. In specific, focus lies on apps designed for parents to remotely track the whereabouts of their child(ren). This particular case can be considered as one example of broader reflection on what continuous technical connectivity means in moral terms. Other-tracking apps give new ground to moral queries related to information technologies. Even though there is little doubt that parents might implement these technologies with good intention to extend care and responsibility over a distance, our concern is that they mistake control for care. This article seeks to demonstrate that a critical stance towards other-tracking by parents is required, because these apps raise a number of concerns that should be recognized as they are implemented. A number of moral critiques are expressed and discussed. These apps have the potential to engender a situation of ‘over-proximity’. A framework is hence required that emphasizes maintaining the critical distance to respect the other’s heterogeneity, autonomy, and privacy.


Mobile applications Other-tracking apps Quantified otherness Parent–child relation Moral concerns Care Control 



This research article is funded by the Flemish Research Foundation (FWO); the research project is entitled ‘Technical vs. Moral Proximity: The ‘Hidden Morality’ of ‘Continuous Connectivity’. The author is grateful to two anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments and suggestions.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Philosophy and Moral SciencesVrije Universiteit BrusselBrusselsBelgium

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