Google Maps has today announceda new feature to allow you to share your location with others. While that might seem creepy, its not the first to add this type of functionality. Facebook tells you when a friend is nearby it even lets you wave at them and gives you the option to send a message if they holler back. Foursquares Swarm lets you check in wherever you are and both Lyft and Uber give you the option of seeing where your friend is if they share their ride location with you.
Now Google Maps will let youtell your friends where you are and give them directions to your location. It will also let you pick a special friend (like a family member,spouse or love interest, for example) to share your location with long-term.
If Googles new addition sounds familiar, thats because the company several years agoused to offer a similar option called Latitude, which was also built into Google Maps. But in 2013, Google decided to instead rolllocation sharing into its social network Google+ as it exited the business of check-ins and real-time tracking in Maps.
However, it was arguably a mistake to pull location sharing from GoogleMaps, where it worked best and made the most sense. Without the option, many users turn to location sharing today via third-party apps, family locators or even iMessage, which today includes its own, similarly designed location-sharing function. Theres even a new maps app designed specifically for people following each others cars on long road trips.
The new feature is available now but youll need to set it up for each individual. To do so, tap the blue dot indicating where you are in the map or go to the side menu in the app and tap Get Started. After that, just follow the same instructions but instead tap Share Location, then choose any number of contacts with whom you want to share your location for a few minutes, hours, months or on an on-going basis.
Those who dont have Google Maps can share through a short link via SMS. (Of course, only share that short link with someone you trust enough not to post it to the internet or share with others you dont know or want finding you.)
Location sharing can be a useful feature at times, butits also fraught with potential nightmare scenarios breaking up with a significant other and forgetting youve set them to the always-on setting in location sharing within the app, for example.
This is one of the reasons why Facebook recently dialed back on location sharing in its Nearby Friends feature. Up until the end of last year, the feature let your Facebook friends see your precise location on a map when you had the option enabled. And it offered the ability to either temporarily or permanently share your location with others you selected.
But users who forgot about having location sharing enabled were opening themselves up to being tracked and potentially stalked. It also lenta sort of creepy vibe to the social networkthats today focused on letting users more precisely control what information theyre sharing, and with whom.
Facebook in December decided to pull out theprecise location sharingcomponent in Nearby Friends and now offers to show proximities and neighborhoods instead.
Google acknowledgedlocation sharing is a sensitive topicbut told TechCrunch, This is about making things simple, accessible and giving people that access to transparencyAnyone with bad intentions can find many other apps and means out there. We are focused on adding on that layer of convenience.
Google at least aims to make sure you dont forget having left the location-sharingsetting enabled. The company saysyou should get a notification every two to three weeks reminding you that youve left the feature on. Google also mentioned it has a public policy team working withCORA (Community Overcoming Relationship Abuse) to help inform its design of location-sharing features across Google products, including this new addition to Maps.
The new featurecomes at a time when Google has been rapidly adding expanded functionality to its Maps application, in light of the threat of a now better-performing Apple Maps. Over the past several months, Google has added things likethe ability to track where youve parked, visibility into the parking situation at your destination, integrated ridesharing, a bookmarking and bucket list option, the ability to add pits stops on a routeand itredesigned the appsinterface for easier access to common needs, like info on traffic, transit and places.
Location sharing isrolling out shortly on iOS, Android and the desktop to users worldwide.
[Post updated to clarify the timing of the features launch not all users will see the feature today, as its a staged rollout.]