Yesterday, Google announced that from now on users of their Google Maps application are able to share their physical location with friends and family. While this is by no means a completely new innovation, Apple does it with Find My Friends and there are other offerings on the market as well, it can be considered a “big thing” if the market leader in mobile navigations adds such a functionality.
Without going into much more detail of how the feature works (refer to the embedded video), I would like to talk about the controversy that surrounds applications doing location sharing. If you are like me you probably see the benefit of sharing your position with a good friend or your parents for instance. Since these features are usually time limited it makes sense to share your location in case you are shopping and splitting up or you are in an unknown city and have a hard time naming an exact meeting point.
A potential drawback, to put it lightly, is if you accidentally forget that you allowed somebody to see your exact location. Imagine breaking up with your partner and your ex is still able to see where you are. Not so nice, huh? This is one of the reasons why Facebook discontinued this feature in their Nearby Friends section last year.
Well, you can certainly argue that it is not the fault of the service if the customers forget to turn location tracking off. I do agree with this statement but I see another, bigger problem. By promoting location sharing between users Google indirectly banks on getting even more data from their users. In this case, the information is highly personal and specific.
Again, this not news. Google probably knows a lot of your location specific information if you use Google Maps to find your way around. The thing that changed is the amount of location data that Google can gather. Not to mention the connection between people sharing their position.
Without opening the whole privacy and “Google is evil” debate again, I am just wondering if you see a use case for such a functionality. Do you think you will use Google Maps to share your location with friends/family? Post your comments below.