AT&T launches Big-Brother-esque family tracking service

Ever wonder where you girlfriend goes after work every Thursday? What about where your dad goes during his lunch hour? Or maybe you just want to make sure Junior made it home safely from school.

AT&T just launched FamilyMaps, a service that tracks any AT&T cellphone from another phone or PC. The trackee (your child, girlfriend, elderly parent, whoever's on your family plan) gets a text message that he or she is being watched — and in real time on a map, or by text or emails with the location, you can see where they are. A scheduled service will send you location information at a certain time each day, so you can get an email when your kid makes it to band practice. The service only works on phones within a family plan. So, there's no way your boss can track you when you call in "sick" from the baseball stadium.

The service costs $9.99 for two phones, and $14.99 for up to five phones, and right now, they're offering the first 30 days for free. GPS tracking isn't new; Verizon, Sprint and Alltel have their own versions for as low as $5 a month. There's also a service from Loopt that is free for iPhones and some Verizon and Sprint Nextel phones that will find your friends, and Google's Latitude also tracks your friends through their cellphones.

The difference with the AT&T services is that it doesn't require the person being tracked to run the same application, and the others have privacy settings. With FamilyMaps, the account holder controls these settings, so you could be always trackable by your family. You've got nothing to hide. Right?

AT&T, via CNET