The Surveillance State Is Watching Your Pets, Too

Photo courtesy of Owen Williams

In a new piece on Debugger, OneZero’s consumer tech publication, our columnist Owen Williams writes about his decision to buy a GPS tracker that attaches to his dog’s collar: “Honestly, I felt silly buying a GPS tracker at first, given I’d have reservations about attaching it to a child if I had one. But the peace of mind with a young dog has been worth it.”

It’s a great story that speaks to a very simple trade-off many of us make all the time: privacy for safety and convenience. Owen doesn’t think he’d attach a tracker to a human child — that’s good! — but as he writes in the piece, he is supplying geolocation data to the tracker’s parent company, which sells products and markets against that data. With the Whistle pet tracker around her neck, Owen’s dog Kaya turns into a little beacon, sending valuable location pings as she walks around the city and its environs.

Keep in mind Amazon, which owns the surveillance company Ring, has shown interest in the pet tracking market as well. And why not? No one wants to lose their companion, and many of us don’t mind opening up a bit of our lives to a company that offers to keep them safe. Maybe it’s worth considering whether this type of device normalizes a kind of surveillance that we’d be less comfortable with in other contexts. Then again, your smartphone already does this type of tracking — and then some.

I’d be curious to hear what OneZero readers think about this trade-off. Are you concerned about this type of surveillance? Or do you think folks are being just a bit paranoid? Let me know in the responses to this post.

And if you’d like some more great stories about pets, technology, and tracking, let me humbly recommend:

Co-Founder and Former Editor in Chief, OneZero at Medium

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