Which do you choose? To live in the moment, or via an app

Does travel expand your mind, or your Facebook timeline?

What is of greater value: the number of likes on an Instagram pic of the Great Wall, or your memories of a family trip to China?

And do you choose to digitally detox or retox on your holidays?   

I'm pondering this after perusing the myriad apps, advances and add-ons propagated by the technology giants. Combined with weakened privacy protections in the United States, these new toys come with some sharp edges. This is particularly pertinent for families with tweens or teens, who routinely scavenge free Wi-Fi.

So, my ears pricked – like those of a meerkat – while doing a tour through Sydney with TripAdvisor to promote the Travel Timeline feature on its mobile app.

On paper it looks terrific. Using GPS and motion sensors, the feature records points of interest chronologically, including your photos and thoughts about where you ate and what you saw.

What a wonderful way to remember the finer details of your family trip. And your timeline remains private until you choose to share it with others.

But here's the catch: Location Services must be set to Always On.

This concerns The Cyber Safety Lady, Leonie Smith. "There are very few apps that only use 'Always On'," she says. "The 'While Using' setting is safer." She recommends turning it "on" when you're well away from home and "off" before you return.

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Also bear in mind that TripAdvisor shares your behaviour, personal information and location with suppliers, business partners and affiliated websites and – unlike Facebook or Twitter – there's no two-step verification to protect you against hacking.

Of course, the next chapter in this brave new world is neuro-tourism, which has been trialled in Singapore.

Recently, five Australian families travelled with electroencephalography headsets, which measure emotional responses. 

The kids' excitement peaked while trying local food, like chilli crab, and they were happiest at the free attractions, such as wandering through Chinatown or looking at the landmark Merlion.

While this is interesting information for parents, it provides a wealth of data for destination marketers.

So, how do we reap the benefits of this new technology without putting our children's privacy at risk?

Aside from the usual advice – back up all your data before travelling, install two-step verification where possible, use a variety of passwords, avoid free wi-fi and use a good Virtual Private Network – talk to your kids about the settings on their devices.

It seems to me TripAdvisor's Travel Timeline – announced with great fanfare and PR hype – is just another way for companies to amass your data. At 10 and 12, our children are already hankering to join enough social media platforms. I really don't want to add another to their wish list.

Yes, I sound like a grumpy Luddite. But I'm actually quite addicted to social media. And I've learned the hard way that it should be used with caution.

It's always wise to read the fine print.

tracey-spicer@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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