Electronic tracking

November 26, 2012

Management was in Dubai a while ago enjoying some retail therapy. I received a text on my phone to tell me that our credit card had been used in Bloomingdales to buy some goods, so I immediately called to congratulate her on the purchase of some shoes she had always wanted.

“Well the store assistant hasn’t even wrapped them up yet,” came the reply, “get back to doing what you are supposed to be doing and stop bothering me,” she added.

In the past I have been on the receiving end of credit card fraud, once in London, and once in Dubai, both times for the equivalent of several thousand rials. I did eventually get my money back but only after lots of form filling and interviews with the banks involved.

I am therefore a great supporter of this texting service – it seems to work around the world and hopefully is a system that protects the genuine consumer from credit card crime. Management and I now have a smile every time such a text comes through.

Just on Saturday in Muscat Daily there were two articles that I found of interest on this same topic. Camel tracking devices in the form of electronic tags are being used in Oman to provide data on feeding, location and pedigree of camels.

I remember some years ago I met an Omani who had travelled from Salalah to Muscat to try to buy a beachfront property at The Wave. He had sold several of his prize camels to raise RO1mn to make the purchase. It seems that the investment in, and therefore value of, racing camels is growing, so the extra security and information provided by such electronic means does have a useful role to play.

Headlining however, in Muscat Daily was news that Saudi women’s male guardians have started to receive text messages on their phones informing them when women in their custody leave the country, even when they are travelling together. There was some activity on Facebook and Twitter yesterday in respect of this news – most of it critical of this clear infringement of human rights.

Two comments caught my eye. One from a woman suggesting that finding a solution to the issue of domestic violence would be a much more valuable initiative to take. The other was from a man indicating that if he needed a text when his wife left Saudi Arabia then he was either married to the wrong woman or he needed a psychiatrist. Both of these comments are well made.

Several countries in the world use tagging devices to try to help those who have offended to integrate themselves back into society. This seems like a reasonable idea. Preventing crime, or learning more about animal life, are both examples of modern technology playing a useful role in society. But using technology to control or monitor the lives of others does not seem to me to be right, nor can I believe that any creed supports or requires such an idea.

I hope that the international community, along with human rights bodies, can exert the necessary pressure to outlaw this practice, and to ensure that new technologies are only used to take society forward for the good of all.