AT&T Rolls Out Orwellian "FamilyMap" Feature

There are plenty of voluntary ways to use your GPS-enabled phone to locate your friends in real time: Loopt, Google Latitude, or a simple text message will usually do. But if you're more into the constant-surveillance kind of thing, go ahead and spring for AT&T's new FamilyMap service.

Add $10 a month (for two family members) or $15 (for five) onto your family plan and you can spy on see where each of your relations are, using either your own phone or AT&T's map-mashed Web service. It works with pretty much any AT&T phone, using A-GPS on devices like a Blackberry or iPhone or just good old fashioned triangulation on dumbphones.

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Unfortunately for Joe Stalker, once you sign up a phone to be mapped, AT&T sends a message to that phone informing it of the follow--and keeps sending messages as reminders about once a month. (You can also set reminders to ping a phone every time its location is looked up by another family member.)

One possible upside to the family in-fighting that will surely result from opting into this plan: It lets you recover stolen phones, as long as said phones aren't roaming outside the AT&T network.

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So how useful will this service be? Even on smartphones with A-GPS, location technology offers limited accuracy, and things only get worse when you try to triangulate a dumbphone. Look up your son or daughter, and you're just as liable to see them either at a friends house, or a half-mile away under a highway overpass. Not to mention that A-GPS is easily stifled by buildings and other large objects. Worst-case scenario: your kid or spouse buys a private, prepaid GoPhone to stop your snooping ways; prepaid phones aren't eligible for FamilyMap.

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  • Ilya Bodner

    I read an article in the Inc magazine that explained how Garmin took advantage of a new market. It is amazing to see how this really changed our lives. Small business owners should be encouraged to build out new technologies in every market condition.

    Sincerely,

    Ilya Bodner
    Small Business Owner
    Initial Underwriting Group