Location sharing on smartphones generally is not very perfect and for years various apps & services have tried to fix it in their own ways. Nobody has perfected it yet, the ones which do drain a lot of battery as they use more than just your GPS location to pin point exactly where you are. And some tracking apps are notorious and raises privacy concerns as they share too much without the user’s knowledge.
And because of such privacy concerns, most privacy aficionados would recommend you to limit the use of location services and turn OFF the location services when not required so that no one can track you. But security experts disagree. They say it is almost impossible to stop location tracking, even if your aren’t broadcasting your GPS location you can still be tracked by various means the most easiest being using cell towers and metadata transmitted along with it with every communication you make with your smart phone. Smartphone basically being a cell phone is always connected to a cell tower to send or receive data and call as and when required. And with the heavy use of data services like 3G/4G/LTE more than just your cell tower data is gathered and transmitted along with it not just your carrier but the apps you use on daily basis.
So instead of shutting down the use of Location services which by the way has made the world so approachable to any stranger we can instead use it cautiously.
WHEN TO USE LOCATION SERVICES
We cannot educate you with over sharing nor can we teach you about privacy. It’s a personal choice and what you are comfortable sharing with others might not be something we agree upon so the decision at the end is yours. But here are so socially acceptable times location sharing can be used as a very useful tool.
- Leaving late from work? Location sharing is especially very helpful when your loved one doesn’t see you when she is expecting to see you usually at home. Just start sharing your location as you leave from work, your partner will be relieved and thank you for being so considerate. You can sharing your location more smartly like when running errands this way your partner can tell you to pick something on your way back home.
- Kids are getting smartphone at very early age. Be it forced or a choice made by the parent its inevitable now. So why not use it to tracking your kid? Instead of being a paranoid parent and using trackers hanging around the kid’s neck or third party apps you can simply use real time location sharing. Apple’s Find my friend does it well if you all are using iPhones, and Apple’s privacy laws are quite strong to protect you and your kid’s location data. Apple even deletes the personal location data after two hours of using it so nothing is ever stored anywhere.
- Planning to meet friends for a dinner or a movie? Create a group of all you friends and let everyone start sharing their location once they are heading out. This will keep everyone informed and you can avoid calling or texting each other asking how far away are they.
- Meeting for a sports event? Open field, stadiums, parks, live events, concerts are huge crowded places. Meeting at such places can be very daunting and often confusing. Chances you will end up being standing on the other doughnut stand than earlier planned. By sharing real time location everyone can meet at the exact same location or follow each other to the desired location without verbally communicating and creating more confusion & chaos.
BEST ALL-ROUND LOCATION SHARING APPS
There are a bunch of ways apps use the location services for their product. We sincerely cannot test and try every location app but we will do the most popular and the most widely accessible ones i.e. Apple, Google, Facebook and Snapchat. There are tons of maps and location sharing apps but not all do real time tracking. The criteria to choose these four is with the idea that if you want to share your location real time with your friends you do not need to ask or convince them to install a new app just for this. The four discussed here are mostly on every smartphone if not all four at least one of these four surely is.
Apple, Facebook, Google Maps and Snapchat let your drop a pin on the map and start sharing your location in real time to your friends. But each one of them use and implement it quite differently.
Apple Maps and Messages works as expected and as every other maps and messages app does when it comes to location sharing. Maps uses your location to show you where you are and helps you navigate to your destination. Apple Maps isn’t as perfect as Google Maps but it works and has some nifty features which are made to work more efficiently with your iPhone. Messages let you share your current location to your friends as and when you want. But if you choose to broadcast your location for a stipulated amount of time in the messages to a friend they can see your real time location in Apple Maps or Find my Friends app. Apple’s privacy laws are very strong your location data is encrypted and stored on the servers for only two hours, two hours later all your location data is deleted unlike Google Maps. Apple’s Find my Friend is really very precise and it updates locations very accurately and very quickly. We found it very reliable in all occasions.
Facebook‘s location sharing is in their App and their Messenger app. In the Facebook App you can check in a location to share where you been but Messenger does it differently. You can share you location and choose to share the real time location data with your friend for up to an hour. Their idea of this is that if you are in a vicinity of your friends, sharing location for limited time like this will help you catch up with pals with whom otherwise you aren’t unable to meet because of your time and other life commitments. Facebook’s location sharing app is very accurate and quick almost as good as Apple’s implementation to their location service. With the recent Facebook privacy issues it is better to steer away from it.
Google Maps recently added real time location sharing, on the map just tap the blue dot that indicates where you are on the map and tap Share your location. You can choose whom to share with and set a duration or set it indefinitely until you turn off the feature yourself. Google Maps has a minor delay at times which is very much noticeable if you do real time tracking. Since Google Maps is used in many third party apps like Uber this delay is prominently observed. The delay isn’t very huge but a minor lag of few seconds but for real time tracking this isn’t quite ideal. But Google Maps has another bigger problem to solve. Since it is catered towards all apps and platforms it isn’t very optimised for every device. So it eats a lot of battery in many devices and for some its really great it is hard to tell how it will work for you. Google has even admitted that their real time sharing is not updated every second, instead its updated at intervals to save battery life. Being the giants in this area its is hard to avoid using them. Also to keep in mind Google stores your location data history unless you specifically ask them not to and then too your location data is still use anonymously by Google for research purposes. This is the price we have to pay for using free services they provide us with.
Snapchat works differently and being the unique app it is you can access map by pinching the screen to open the map to share you location with all your friends or specific friends. A bitmoji of you pops on the map which marks as your location. If your friends are sharing their location you will see their bitmoji on the map. To stop sharing your location you can choose Ghost mode. Snapchat only updates your location when you open the app so it cannot do actual real time tracking in the background like Apple, Facebook or Google does. That being said because of the nature of the app being chatting by using snaps mainly, a smart friend can easily guess your whereabouts if something looks familiar in your photo or stories you create on Snapchat.
WHEN NOT TO SHARE LOCATION
Location sharing can be a double edged sword, some unimaginable things can occur as a by product of excessive location sharing which one might not have comprehended before hand.
- Do not share your location publicly on social networking platforms like Twitter or Facebook or anywhere it will be broadcasted to strangers. If you want to share your location via a link with a friend on Twitter send them the link as a DM instead. There are a lot of creepers on the internet and you never know who might use it to cause you harm physically or emotionally.
- Parents should always check their kids location sharing settings as to avoid them unknowingly share their location with stranger who could cause harm to your kids. It is better to use parent controls and restrict location sharing in general in your kids’ phone to avoid them doing it or something else doing it without their knowledge.
- Indoor location tracking is terrible. So if you’re meeting someone in a mall or an indoor space its better not to share the location as it might not get updated properly and lead your friend somewhere you aren’t causing more confusion than being helpful. Most indoor places have their own apps or maps to guide you along, so decide a meeting point from this indoor map instead.
- When not in use turn off your location services entirely.There could be background location services running on your phone logging your location data all the time. If you aren’t that paranoid then simply turn OFF to save battery. As mentioned before, location services use a lot of things other than GPS signals to point your location. So when not in use, why waste battery?
In iOS, Settings > Privacy > Location Services > OFF
In Android, Settings > Location > OFF