The Pros, Cons and Creepiness of Google Maps’ New Location Sharing

We’ve all been there. You’re at an outdoor festival with family or friends and all of a sudden, you’re alone.

Well, alone within a crowd of thousands-you’ve lost your group. What to do?

If you’re lucky enough to have your phone in hand, a quick call can remedy the situation.

But what about those times when your friend tells you she’s ‘by the sand’ on that mile-long beach? Or when someone tells you they’re ‘next to the trees’ at the conservation area?

If you’re like me, you hear these things, agree to meet and then hang up, only to realize you haven’t a f^&*in clue where your partner in crime might be.

Google, it seems, is in your head and feels your frustration. The company’s new location-sharing feature allows users to let others know of their exact location on a map, with just a few taps.

Why It’s Useful but Creepy

Some say it can be handy for sharing your location en route when you’re late for an appointment, or simply for keeping track of friends and loved ones-with their permission, of course. (And, if you leave the feature on indefinitely, finding your lost phone).

I have to add here though that, in discovering exactly how location-sharing works on Google maps, I am a little weirded-out- actually, completely. I know it’s handy, but bear with me. (I also know there are plenty of apps out there that already provide this same service but I’ll argue that they’re not so ubiquitously used).

Anyways, I regularly leave my phone at home on a shelf when I go out for the day. I know, I’m a rare breed and must have been born on Mars and immigrated to Earth, but my phone is actually never in my pocket (much to my partner’s chagrin). Sometimes it is. (I can’t believe I’m admitting this, but it’s true). I regularly misplace it ‘someplace’ in our car, house, my bag, etc.

I guess it’s just my personality, and subconsciously I like being ‘away’ when I’m out.

Limits

So, anyways, the concept of EVER wanting anyone to track my exact whereabouts on a moving, interactive Harry Potter map totally freaks me out. Big time!

I’m not doing anything that’s getting me in trouble, but there IS something about basic privacy and freedom that seems to clash with any kind of tracking device that absolutely anyone can access.

And also, there is the potential for misuse. Is it really safe to have the ability for others to find out where you are, sitting right there in your smartphone, 24/7?

I’m probably overreacting. If you’re anything like me though, you’ll be happy to know that Google has (sort of) thought of these things.

Here are the details. You can only share your whereabouts for the amount of time you want, and with the people you want to. No one else can see you.

How It’s Safe (ish)

Google will send you regular updates to remind you that you’re sharing your location, if you do so over a longer period of time (such as months, or indefinitely).

You can also always tell if you’re sharing your location or not as you’ll see an icon above the compass on your map to remind you that you’re in sharing mode. It’ll pop up every time you launch the app.

Furthermore, you can ‘hide’ others who are sharing their location with you on your own map, if they’ve forgotten to turn themselves off, on their end.

So, I’ll sound like a grandma and say, don’t forget what you’ve shared and with whom. May you be tracked safely.

Here’s how to use Google Location Sharing:

  1. Open the Google+ app .
  2. Touch the menu button or icon > Settings.
  3. Touch the account name you’d like to update.
  4. Touch Location sharing > next to “Location Sharing”, turn the switch on or off. To share your precise location, scroll down to where it says “Pinpoint Location” and touch Edit.

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