Family members have an increasing capacity to spy on each other using hidden cameras, GPS trackers and the like. Common applications of these ever-developing technologies include sussing out an unfaithful spouse and detecting when a teenager has driven the family car over the speed limit.
Robert Mendick’s article largely follows the usual line of media coverage of this phenomenon: Awesome new technology used, cad (or caddette) caught in flagrante, justice served, age-old human problem solved!
But to his credit, Mendick strays from the standard script by mentioning another possible outcome:
Dr Diletta Bianchini, 35, a doctor working at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London, hired a detective agency to place a GPS tracking device beneath the car of her husband William Sachiti, convinced that rather than working late he was conducting an illicit liaison. Mr Sachiti, an entrepreneur, spotted the tracker’s light flashing under his car. Thinking it was a bomb, he called the police. As police proceeded to cordon off Sutton high street in Surrey, Mr Sachiti spoke to his wife, who had to admit what she had done. “I’m just so sorry it happened,” Dr Bianchini told newspapers last week. “It was a huge mistake and I was out of my mind”.
I wish Mendick had described how the couple’s relationship was affected by this incident. I likewise wonder how a parent’s relationship to adolescent children changes when the latter discover that their driving habits are being covertly monitored despite a truthful declaration of minding the speed limit. And how does a husband explain to his wife that there is no money for a family vacation this year because he spent $3,000 on a private detective to prove that she was every bit as faithful as she had promised?
No psychologist would deny that many of the most devastating emotional injuries human beings experience are inflicted by deeply trusted family members (e.g., wayward spouses, backstabbing siblings, exploitative parents). It is entirely understandable that people want to avoid such agony and that some of them reach for technology that seems to promise insulation. But the spying technology itself, as an concrete expression of suspicion, has the capacity to destroy the trust and vulnerability that can make family life one of the most richly rewarding experiences in human existence.