Predators and Prey: Ubiquitous Tracking, Privacy and the Social Contract

Mancini, Clara; Jedrzejczyk, Lukasz; Thomas, Keerthi; Price, Blaine; Bandara, Arosha; Rogers, Yvonne; Joinson, Adam and Nuseibeh, Bashar (2010). Predators and Prey: Ubiquitous Tracking, Privacy and the Social Contract. Technical Report 2010/13; Department of Computing, The Open University.



Previous work examining privacy interfaces and user attitudes towards location tracking have relied on irregular manual updates from users, imprecise location information or information obtained via specialized equipment. We present a field study where 12 participants used their own mobile phones with automatic accurate location tracking over a 3-week period. We recorded over 1000 user tracking events, over 300 extended experience sampling entries and more than 15 hours of debriefing interviews. Taking an evolutionary perspective on location tracking, we observe how predator-prey dynamics interact with the social contracts that define our relationships and present a three-tire framework accounting for the complexity of users’ responses to location tracking technology. We also discuss how the limitations of the technology currently available contribute to misperceptions and misinterpretations impacting on an individual’s social interactions and how ubiquitous location tracking encroaches on the individual’s fundamental need to safely withdraw from social interaction.

Viewing alternatives

Download history


Public Attention

Altmetrics from Altmetric

Number of Citations

Citations from Dimensions

Item Actions