Would developing applications to support Geoslavery be considered a violation of the GIS Professional (GISP) code of ethics ?

Human tracking devices, however, introduce a new potential for real-time control that extends far beyond privacy and surveillance, per se. As a result, society must contemplate a new form of slavery characterized by location control. Geoslavery now looms as a real, immediate, and global threat. - Jerome E. Dobson and Peter F. Fisher, IEEE Technology and Society Magazine, Spring 2003

Dobson defines geoslavery as:

a practice in which one entity, the master, coercively or surreptitiously monitors and exerts control over the physical location of another individual, the slave.

What about a applications that support Volunteered Geoslavery?

It is therefore understandable how inciting fear has made the trade-off of spatial data privacy for security appear on balance to be a good bargain for many people. - Nancy Obermeyer Thoughts on “Volunteered (Geo)Slavery”, Indiana State University.

  • I have to admit that I've never even heard the term "geoslavery" before, but I find this intriguing. Would you consider this to be a form of geoslavery: readwriteweb.com/archives/…. I also remember a conversation with a Navteq rep I had a few years back where he was telling me about a web/phone app that, when the kids phone went outside of a bounding box (set by the parent), the parent would get a text message, but I can't find that right now. Commented Nov 1, 2010 at 11:35
  • I think that's a geofence, and there used to be (probably still are) apps for that (I remember one BREW app for VZW). en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geofence Commented Nov 1, 2010 at 23:07
  • 1
    Please cite at least the definitions rather than linking to pdf files which may disappear anytime.
    – johanvdw
    Commented Nov 25, 2011 at 21:28
  • @JayCummins GeoLoqi recently acquired by Esri provides Geofencing. Just don't fence me in. Commented Mar 25, 2013 at 16:43

3 Answers 3


With the code of ethics being a set of guidelines, I think there will be varying interpretations.

For me, I would interpret this sort of coercion as a violation.

IV. Obligations to Individuals in Society
- Avoid undue intrusions into the lives of individuals.


The Federal court here in San Antonio doesn't see a problem with requiring students to wear RFIDs. I guess that absolves GISPs.

A federal judge Tuesday ruled that Northside Independent School District can transfer a student from her magnet school for refusing to wear her student ID badge to protest a new electronic tracking system.

Read more.

Here's more about the RFID technology being used.

  • 1
    legal is not the same thing as ethical or moral. Consider the behavior of the banksters over the past couple of years. Nobody, certainly from the executive suite, is facing prosecution, let alone going to jail. But I think an awful lot of people consider their behavior to be amoral/unethical at best.
    – Llaves
    Commented Mar 26, 2013 at 4:09
  • @Llaves There will be a growing number of RFPs being issued, giving GISPs an opportunity to propose solutions that include RFID tracking technology. What ethical/moral guidelines do you suggest a GISP could use in developing their proposals? Commented Mar 26, 2013 at 13:55

Slavery is a well-defined concept that really doesn't need a couple of academics to modify with the "geo" prefix in order to enhance their careers/visibility/whatever . To the extent that "geo-slavery" is actual slavery, then it is illegal in nearly every country in the world. If the sheer repugnance of supporting slavery isn't enough to convince you that it's a violation of any code of ethics, then you have a larger problem than interpreting the GISP code.
If geo-slavery (as in the oxymoronic "voluntary geo-slavery") isn't really slavery, then it's offensive to dilute the meaning of a word that is used to describe people subject to unspeakable conditions.

  • I've added Dobson's definition to the question above. Commented Mar 26, 2013 at 13:52

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