6 September 2023

Is it normal to track your partner's whereabouts?

| Zoya Patel
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Is tracking your partner’s whereabouts, even with their consent, just a little bit stalky? Image: Salim Hanzaz.

Recently, I’ve encountered a relationship behaviour that has made me feel very uncomfortable in what seem like healthy, normal partnerships.

Numerous friends have mentioned that they and their romantic partner mutually track each other’s location on their phones. They mention it in passing, like it’s no big deal, and clearly both parties have agreed to it.

Is it just me or is stalking your partner’s location generally seen to be … well, stalking?

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It has never occurred to me that I would ever need satellite tracking to find my partner. If he’s late coming home, I assume I’ll get a text or he’ll show up. If we’re at separate outings over the weekend and need to touch base, we do so via text or phone. I’ve never desired the knowledge of where exactly he is stuck in traffic or whether or not he’s actually where he said he would be – he’s a grown adult, I trust him, and I don’t need that information. And frankly, if he wanted that information on me, alarm bells would be ringing.

Yet, for the various couples I’ve come across who do this, they feel like it’s completely normal – just a useful way to manage their households, knowing where the other person is without bothering them. Further to tracking their partners, my friends were confident they would also track their children when they had phones (though half of these kids are in kindergarten and have phones already).

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Tracking a small child if they’re going to and from school alone before the age of 13 makes sense to me. But I really don’t feel comfortable with the idea of tracking teenagers, even knowing that their age range is more likely to undertake risky behaviour and potentially get into trouble. My reasoning is that people need to have privacy, even from a young age, and building trust is pretty hard if you’re literally watching your child’s every move.

Yes, if the very worst thing happened and your child went missing, you’d probably wish you had tracked their location – but the likelihood of that is fairly slim. It’s more likely that your child will just feel surveilled all the time or come up with some kind of workaround to evade your scrutiny. Even so, I can understand watching your kids’ movements more than I can watching your partner’s.

I don’t know if it’s just because I’ve been reading a lot of crime and thriller novels recently or if I’m just old-fashioned, but tracking any loved one feels weird. Is it just me? Am I overlooking some major benefit of knowing your partner’s every move that doesn’t fall into the category of creepy and controlling?

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To me its creepy. Wrestling with this now that my partner has Dementia. Wanders and gets lost. Uncomfortable with the concept but accept the benefits. Try to not use it. I don’t track my dog why would l do it to a person in “normal” circumstances?

A tracker app would be useful to find a misplaced spouse in the aisles of a supermarket.

GrumpyGrandpa10:40 pm 07 Sep 23

I’m someone who doesn’t have a natural sense of direction. The wife and I have actually discussed tracking each other.

Our son tracks his brother, so that when he’s driving to Canberra, we know how far away he is.

I’m happy to be tracked. I’m not paranoid nor do I have anything to hide. To be honest, I’d be a bit suspicious of anyone who had a problem with it.

Wow! I’m just imagining the raised eyebrows in my family if I suddenly announced that I was going to start tracking them! Scary indeed!!

GrumpyGrandpa1:06 pm 08 Sep 23

Hi Jack D.
Yeah, it might come down to the use of the word “Track”. 😂
“Location Sharing” is less threatening. 😇

More seriously, there are people in our society, who would use this type of technology for less than honourable reasons and that’s not acceptable.

I think it’s also fair to say that our privacy is important and we are continually being “tracked” and our data mined, sometimes without our full consent or understanding and that’s something I’m not entirely comfortable with.

I don’t see anything nefarious about “sharing my location” with my family, because, they are family, we are close, and I trust them implicitly.

But, hey, that’s my world. I’d find it unusual if my family didn’t

These people aren’t just sharing their location with their partners, they’re sharing it with google and whoever wrote the app they are using… who in turn share it with advertisers and anyone else prepared to pay.

Here are just two examples: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-08-12/google-fined-60m-misleading-mobile-users-location-data/101329790


A typical person may have a few or dozens of apps on their phone that are sharing location to businesses who developed and own the app, who then sell that location to data aggregators and who else knows. I am far less worried about my wife and kids knowing where I am. It is helpful part of life being able to find someone, or understand when they have left work.

Of course technoligcally enabled stalking can occur and has occured. However, there are far more granular user controls on sharing location these days.

I’d say it’s weirder to question your friend’s decisions when they have stated that they are entirely consensual and are happy with them.

If it is consensual it is fine, if not there are laws in this country against stalking and harassment. What is the point of this article?

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