Chapter excerpt: The ethics of location sharing

From the book chapter on navigation – covers maps, transit, and location tracking. This is about the privacy implications of location tracking …

We use Apple location sharing to track the locations of our Explorers’ phones. It’s enabled one to ride his bicycle across a large metropolitan area and another to travel by bus to and from school. We rely on it.

There are privacy concerns of course. These vary somewhat by years of life, but more by the development of judgment and independence. When our Explorers were early teens we had no privacy concerns at all. We configured their phones so they could not disable location tracking — though they quickly learned they could turn off their phone and block it.[1]

Now that our Explorers are young adults there is a calculated balance between the benefits of location tracking and the loss of privacy and autonomy. An adult Explorer with a legal Guardian, for example, has a different set of personal and social expectations than an independent adult. Similarly, an adult Explorer who gets easily lost, or who is especially vulnerable to dangerous exploitation, will benefit more from location tracking than a cautious Explorer with good navigation skills.

At this time our Explorers are comfortable with location tracking. I think there are three reasons they don’t object. One is that they’ve grown up in an always-connected, always-aware world. Another is that our location tracking goes both ways; they can track us as we track them. Knowing where we are relieves some anxieties. Most of all, I think they appreciate the times that location tracking has helped manage risks and challenges they face.

They are becoming more independent, however. We are coming to a time when their location tracking will change to “opt-in” rather than “always-on”. That transition can be a challenge for anxious Guides.

There are two ways to track the location of an Explorer’s phone — and, indirectly, to track an Explorer’s location or to find a lost phone. I’l review the two options and why to use one or another.

[1] This happens quickly. “You need to leave your phone on when you ride your bike.”
“Because we can’t see where you are when you turn it off …”

Chapter excerpt: managing phone spam for special needs iPhone users

From chapter on using an iPhone as a … telephone.


When telephone calls migrated from mechanical switches to digital networks they picked up an unexpected problem. It’s now quite easy for someone outside of the US legal system to phone someone in the US with a fake phone number. These calls are used for everything from advertising to scams to stealing people’s identity and money. An unlisted number is of little help, digital dialers call phone numbers randomly 1 as well as lists of known active numbers. Many of us no longer answer any calls with an unrecognized Caller ID 2.

Explorers may be particularly vulnerable to exploitation of course. So it’s a good idea to consider defensive options.

To start with an Explorer’s number should be added to Federal Do Not Call registries at This has only a small effect on modern spam but It’s a reasonable start.

Some mobile carriers are implementing defenses against spam calls. They use proprietary rules to try to distinguish good and bad calls 3. If your Explorer’s carrier provides phone filtering I recommend enabling this feature 4. I’ve used AT&T Call Protect with good results. As of the time I write this AT&T and Tmobile provide call blocking for free, Sprite and Verizon charge for it.

The iPhone also supports “Call Blocking & Identification” either by adding Blocked Contacts 5 or using a Call Blocking & Authentication service 6.

The Do Not Disturb feature is another option to consider. An iPhone can be setup to silence all incoming calls and messages unless they match a Contact. In Settings:Do Not Disturb set Silence to “Always” and Allow Calls From to “All Contacts”. I have seen problems with this setting however, in some versions of iOS it blocks notifications even for people in Contacts. This is a bug that may be fixed by the time you read this.

The best defense against phone spam at this time is a Carrier service and Explorer education. Using Call Blocking & Identification or Do Not Disturb features can work for some but are tricky to manage.


1 In any given US area code there are at most 9,999,999 phone numbers and many mobile numbers are reused.

2 In theory a spam call’s fake number might, by chance, match a number in Contacts. I have thousands of Contacts though, and I’ve never seen this happen. Ignoring unrecognized calls isn’t an option for everyone unfortunately.

3 These products can help reduce attacks but won’t get everything.

Carriers are also looking into next-generation communication systems that authenticate callers and can use the same approaches that manage email spam. This may be 5-10 years away though.

4 Alas, I need to make some privacy warnings here. This product gives AT&T access to user Contacts. I don’t know what privacy policies are in place.

AT&T Call Connect is based on a product called HiYa. It’s “free” because the vendor sells user information to marketers. It would be funny if robocallers were buyers!

5 One trick: Create a Contact called “Bad People” add add numbers to it. Then block “Bad People”.

6 See Apple support: I can’t recommend a specific service however.