AT&T launches new tracking service

AT&T has launched a new FamilyMap service aimed at letting subscribers monitor other phone lines on the same wireless account using cell tower triangulation technology.  

Monitoring can take place via cell phone or PC, and the person who is tracked receives a free text message alerting them to the fact someone is watching.  However, the phone account's principal owner controls whether or not a text message is sent out to the phone being monitored.  

Furthermore, there is a built-in scheduling feature, allowing parents to see if their children are home by a certain time.  Periodic text message reminders are sent out to each phone on the plan to remind them they're being monitored using the service.

"AT&T FamilyMap is a terrific tool to help busy families keep track of each other, as well as a great way to check up on loved ones for any reason, such as to touch base with elderly family members," AT&T Mobility and Consumer Markets VP Mark Collins said in a statement.  "More than 60 percent of AT&T Wireless customers are part of a family plan or multiple line account, so there's a considerable number of our subscribers whom we believe will find this service beneficial."

Interested users can sign up for a free 30-day trial; then it costs $9.99 per month for two phones, or $14.99 per month for up to five phones.  The service isn't available for prepaid or AT&T Go Phones and uses cell tower triangulation to keep tabs on a phone's location. The system is also compatible with Assisted GPS (A-GPS) which can provide more accurate results.

Even though AT&T obviously has an optimistic view of the technology, there are journalists and others who are worried this is a bit too much like big brother watching over subscribers.

Despite the worry of unintentional tracking, Verizon Wireless, Alltel, and Sprint Nextel all have similar tracking services available to interested subscribers.

"If you look at the last five years, if you look at what major innovations have occurred in computing technology, every single one of them came from AMD. Not a single innovation came from Intel." -- AMD CEO Hector Ruiz in 2007

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