back to article Verizon unveils offspring surveillance service

Verizon Wireless had added a new service that puts a 21st century spin on Orwell's Big Brother, ushering in a brave new world of surveillance monitored by Big Mother and Big Father. The service, entitled Family Locator and available to subscribers on Verizon's Family SharePlan for an extra $9.99 per month, enables helicopter …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Dubious Legality

    Im not a lawyer, but I'm not entirely sure this is legal because of the Federal Wiretap Act.

    Generally there would have to be a Warrant issued to intercept communications between the handset and tower, which is likely how this system works, or there would have to a notorized consent form signed by whoever was subject to monitoring. Woe to the overzealous cop or Federal agent that decided to use this as an evidence collection mechanism though because its very likely inadmissable.

    I get the feeling Verizon's legal people didnt have much input on this one.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Dubious Legality

      This isn't intended for law enforcement but rather to keep teenage sons and daughters (as well as perhaps untrusted spouses) honest. It even has potential safeguards against the phone switcheroo since it makes it easy for the parent/spouse to physically travel to the phone's location. Leave the phone in the library? You better hope the parent doesn't pick that moment to track it down and find it left there, as you'll have some explaining to do later.

    2. Aaron Em

      Well, you're not a lawyer

      -- that's for damn sure. Any lawyer with sense (any person with sense, but leave that for now) would spot that, since the phones are talking to the towers periodically anyway, since the towers belong to Verizon, and since the phone contract is a private arrangement between Verizon and whoever's name is on the bills, the question of wiretapping doesn't even arise because this is a service Verizon is offering its account holders based on information which Verizon would be collecting in any case.

      Try again, Bonghit Bob.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      I'm a bit old fashioned but I though we are supposed to bring up children to make their own decisions and give them the chance to be independent instead of spying and wrapping them in cotton wool.

      I'd never have broken my leg or joined the Army otherwise.

      1. Aaron Em

        Hey, I didn't say I *like* it

        Just that it's most likely legal. Did I miss a Friday article in which commentard rules were expanded so that "This is permissible under the law" and "I personally endorse and support this endeavor" are considered equivalent statements?

  2. Anonymous Coward

    "Peace of mind is right at your fingertips"

    Hardly. Peace of mind mainly comes from not knowing what your kids are up to.

  3. Pen-y-gors Silver badge


    1) Leave compromised mobile phone in public library

    2) Go and mug little old lady

    3) Use proceeds of crime to buy PAYG handset and SIM

    4) Only use parentally-controlled handset when you want to mislead them about your location

    1. Aaron Em

      Re: Workaround

      ...if your kids are knocking over old ladies for the contents of their purses, just shoot 'em and try again with a fresh set; you've got problems no Verizon service will solve.

  4. Irongut

    If this had existed when I was a kid we would have found countless ways round it or at least to prove it was useles and make our parents ditch it. Like swapping phones for a coule of days or handing your phone into the lost poperty at the library for a few hours while we went to the park to smoke play football.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      That's why don't tell them that you've turned it on, and don't make use of it unless it's really something major : )

      I'm not sure where the lines are between hovering, responsible parenting, and irresponsible parenting, but in my case I have "Where's my Droid" setup on my daughter's phone... mostly in case she loses it again, but it can also be used in the unlikely case of emergency (i.e. she's supposed to be somewhere but we can't find her, she's not answering her phone, etc).

      Personally, I think this type of service is overkill and in the "hovering" (overkill) territory... not to mention I'm a cheap bastard. But I can understand why someone would get it.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    and of course, this system can never be hacked or misused

    ... by JoeTechnoTeenyBopperStalker (or Trusted Verison Employee) to learn that your daughter is in an alley outside a warehouse at 11:00PM, probably puking her guts out due to pre-rave drinking.

    But if he did, he'd kindly go and pick her up.


    (unwilling) Locatee #2586784730.

  6. Peter 39

    almost certainly legal

    This is almost certainly legal if the parents are paying for the phone. After all, it's just tracking their own phone. SInce it seems to be restricted to phones on the "Family Share Plan" then I'd guess that the parents are paying for it all.

    If the kids are paying then that's a whole different issue.

  7. Big Al

    Won't someone... ahhhh you know the rest.

    Clearly this service is aimed at those who believe that the location of the phone is the same as the location of their kids... and whose relationship with their kids is so poor that there has been a complete trust breakdown, which in turn suggests poor parenting skills.

    Can't imagine this actually improving the atmosphere in any family where it's introduced.

    1. Aaron Em

      Re: Won't someone... ahhhh you know the rest.

      Upvoted for good sense of the sort we probably won't see again in this thread.

    2. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Won't someone... ahhhh you know the rest.

      You forget that the intended recipients of the phones are teenagers. Teenagers, by their nature, tend to wax rebellious (it's part psychology and part biology). Trust does tend to waver at this stage in life and it can happen regardless of the level of parenting skill. And like I said earlier, the ol' "Phone Switcheroo" always runs the risk of its location being double-checked physically (say, Dad's on the way home from work and decides to stop by the library on the way).

      OTOH, it's also a bit reassuring to check on their location if they're late and just find out they're en route, just held up. People missing their scheduled rendezvous tends to make people worry.

      1. Big Al

        Re: Won't someone... ahhhh you know the rest.

        "Teenagers, by their nature, tend to wax rebellious (it's part psychology and part biology). Trust does tend to waver at this stage in life and it can happen regardless of the level of parenting skill."

        Trust works two ways - as a parent of two teenagers myself, I am well aware of the issues involved. And indeed, missing scheduled rendezvous can be an issue, but I trust that my kids are aware of this and will buzz a quick SMS over if it's likely to happen...

      2. Toastan Buttar

        Re: Won't someone... ahhhh you know the rest.

        "OTOH, it's also a bit reassuring to check on their location if they're late and just find out they're en route, just held up. People missing their scheduled rendezvous tends to make people worry."

        Or you could just, you know, phone them and ask where they are.

  8. Thomas Gray

    Fantastic idea!

    What better way to get a ready-made alibi.

  9. Wile E. Veteran

    Big deal

    Sprint has offered this for years. As account holder for my phone, my wife's phone, my 36-year-old daughter's phone and my 14-year-old granddaughter's phone, I have the service. Never use it *except* when a family member says, "I can't find my phone, I might have left it somewhere." Then I use the service to figure out where the phone is. Couldn't care less about where they are otherwise.

    It's not the tool that's a problem, it's how it is used. A knife can be used to slice a bagel or commit a murder.

  10. Darryl

    One thing in the article bothered me

    Family Locator can betray their driving habits, as well, letting parents know not only where they are, but how fast they're driving – and it allows said parent to message them, telling them, for example, to slow the hell down.

    Is that where the kid grabs his mobile to check who just texted him and swerves into oncoming traffic?

  11. jake Silver badge

    Why are kids carrying cells in the first place?

    Kids don't actually need telephones, much less cellphones. I didn't have a landline until I was 16 at Uni. My dad didn't have a telephone until he was 18 and at Uni. They didn't exist where my Grandfather lived during his teenage years. We all got along just fine.

    This whole "everybody needs instant communications, even the kiddies" mentality is just an excuse for poor parenting. IMO, of course. Tracking kiddies via Cell is just an excuse for said poor parenting.

    As for vehicles, they are a privilege, not a right. If you don't trust your pre-adult teen, don't hand 'em the keys to your vehicle. Remember, kiddies can't actually license a motor vehicle until they are of age, at which point it's no longer your problem.

    When you're a parent, parent! It ain't exactly rocket science. Humans have been doing it successfully[1] for hundreds of thousands of years.

    [1] For random variations of "successful", of course ;-)

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