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“There’s a lot of legal loopholes around location tracking,” he said.
As for people’s willingness to track family members and friends, McGeveran said: “Creepiness is about expectations.”
People who are used to going about their day without someone knowing where they are at all times are likely to balk at sharing their movements, he said. Those most willing to opt in are generally younger people who have grown up with social media and location-sharing apps, as well as curious tech enthusiasts.
Jack Butler, 25, of Bloomington, started using Find My Friends a couple of years ago as a novelty. He shares his location with about 10 friends, and it’s useful when they are trying to meet up, especially at big public events like the recent Red Bull Crashed Ice in St. Paul.
But it’s not for everybody, and even Butler turns it off sometimes.
“I remember mentioning it to some friends, but they were like ‘Not a chance,’ ” he said. “They either like it or think it’s bizarre.”
One area where tracking technologies have been embraced is in caring for adults with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Wearable GPS gadgets and smartphone apps can relieve stress on caregivers and make it easier to find someone who gets lost, said Debbie Richman, director of education and outreach at the Alzheimer’s Association of Minnesota and North Dakota.
“That type of technology allows somebody with dementia to be safe and yet be monitored and then maintain independence, which is really great,” she said. “I see it getting more and more mainstream, where it’s going to be a more accepted intervention.”
Dick Wagner and his wife, Carol, of Mound, have been using their iPhones to cope with his Alzheimer’s disease. When Dick Wagner goes for walks — something he loves to do — Carol Wagner uses the Find My iPhone feature to track him along the way, just in case he gets disoriented.
It’s not an invasion of privacy, but a way to maintain his independence. “I know that Carol can see me at any time, which is really helpful,” he said.
It may not work forever, but for now Carol Wagner said, it’s a perfect solution.
“If his phone is in his pocket and turned on, I can find him,” she said.
Katie Humphrey • 612-673-4758