Striking A Balance On The Availability Of Location Information
from the find-them-and-bring-them-home dept
Tech web sites were covered last week with the sad story of the Kim family, who got stranded in the Oregon wildnerness. While the family’s two daughters and their mother were rescued after more than a week, father and husband James Kim died after setting out from their car in an attempt to get help. It appears that one piece of information that helped rescuers narrow their search area was location information from the family’s cell phones — and it helped them narrow that area significantly. Now, in the aftermath of the tragedy, a a timeline of the search efforts shows that the cell information came from an employee of a mobile operator working on his own, and it came to authorities a week after the family was stranded, and three days after they were reported missing, leading some to wonder why this information wasn’t considered sooner. This certainly isn’t to criticize the efforts of the search and rescue team, but rather to wonder what can be done to make this type of potentially useful and life-saving information more easily and quickly available to investigators. This isn’t the first time this issue has arisen: another operator got criticized earlier this year when one of its customer-service operators wouldn’t reveal GPS information from a phone in a car stolen with a baby inside. Obviously there are privacy issues at play, and the whole HP pretexting scandal reveals that personal information is, in some cases, too easy to get, but there is a balance to be struck. In cases such as this, perhaps location information is too difficult to get to the right people, and some collaboration and coordination of efforts among mobile operators and authorities before the next tragedy happens might just help prevent it.