Technical & How-to, Uncategorized

Location Sharing: How and Why (Not)?

28 Apr , 2018  

It’s not a new feature, but I stumbled across Google Maps Location Sharing almost by accident, one weekend, while walking in the park. It seemed prudent to share my location with a few family members and nearby friends, in case I dropped dead of heat exhaustion or got eaten by an alligator. I kid you not: I walk with gators.

So, that’s not a gator.

The point is, I decided to try out Location Sharing and I turned it on – apparently, using the “Until you turn this off” option – and my husband pointed out, a few weeks later, that I’d spent so much time on the PC, sitting in my comfy recliner, that Google had now dropped a pin on our house like a landmark.

I gave him a withering look and turned it off. Let that be a lesson to you: If you turn on location sharing, be sure to set a reminder to turn it off, or risk unintended consequences.

But for all that social media and location sharing with family, friends, and Internet acquaintances can seem weird and stalkerish, it can also serve some useful purposes, such as:

  • Letting people know when you’re out running, in case you keel over and need assistance;
  • Helping people find you when they’re following you to a party, if you get separated in  traffic;
  • Keeping tabs on your kids (“That’s the price of a cell phone, dear daughter mine!”);
  • Finding the after-work happy hour;
  • Leaving clues for CSI in case you vanish without a trace;
  • Playing Scavenger Hunt item.

Use your imagination, and I’m sure you can think of other good uses for it. Share a link on Twitter, then kick your phone under the free weights while you shop at the mall next to 24 Hour Fitness. Come back to a tweetstorm of “Oh, my God, you really do live at the gym! So sorry I ever doubted you!”

How to Enable / Disable Location Sharing

1) Open the Google Maps app on your phone and tap the hamburger icon.
NOTE: I use a Samsung Note 8 Android phone. I’ve never used an iPhone, so cannot provide directions here, though they may be the same/similar. If you have an iPhone, go ask in the Apple Store. They’ll probably set it up for you.

2) Tap Location sharing.

3) Unless you’re having second thoughts about this whole thing, tap GET STARTED. If, instead of GET STARTED, you see a list of friends – you’ve been here before, and those friends know it.First, choose how long you want to share your real-time location. The options are: For 1 hour or Until you turn this off. You can tap + or to increase or decrease the time in one-hour increments. If you choose Until you turn this off, set yourself a reminder for a future time to ask yourself if you really meant to do that.

4) To choose from your Google contacts, tap Select People. To choose from Facebook Messenger contacts, tap Messenger. Choose one or more contacts to share your location with. To share a link to your live, real-time whereabouts, click the overflow menu icon (looks like an ellipsis…unless there’s no room, then it looks like an ellipsis that got scared of a mouse). Be careful where you post the link, if you choose to share it that way.  If sharing via link, or with questionable contacts, avoid using the Until you turn this off option, lest you forget to.

5) To stop sharing, just return to the previous step and tap the X next to the contact name or to Sharing via link for ________ text.

Never skip step 5, unless you want to be mocked for Google dropping a pin on your chair and calling it a “place of interest.”

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10 Responses

  1. Mitch Mitchell says:

    I’ve never thought about turning off the location beacon while I’m home. Actually, now that my car has GPS built into it, I could probably turn it off… except… that early this year (or late last year) when I thought I’d lost my phone, I was only able to find it because I had the location thing on. Hmmm… decisions, decisions…

    • This is not the same as shutting off GPS. This is just about SHARING your GPS location with people you choose to share it with.

      Now, if you leave GPS on all the time, Google has your location data ALL THE TIME. And I’m sure the cops could get the info out of them, but it would take more work than getting it out of your wife, should she know when to start worrying about you not showing up where you were supposed to be. 🙂 Someone might actually find you…before you were ripe. I turned it on for my husband and kids while I was out of town on business, in downtown San Francisco. I never felt unsafe there, but it felt safer knowing someone who cared could check to be sure my little blue dot was where it was supposed to be.

      • Mitch Mitchell says:

        You’re talking about things like Four Square, which I’ve never used. However, are you sure that the thing that helps you find your phone isn’t a part of location sharing instead of Google Maps? When I had to find my phone, what came up didn’t look like Maps or anything GPS from what I remember.

      • Did I ever mention FourSquare? I am not talking about FourSquare. I am talking about the Google Maps app. It has an option that allows you to share your location, either with selected contacts or via link that you can post wherever the heck you want to post it (I did that, one day, on Facebook – even invited all my Friends to come walk with me – and while that may sound weird and creepy, the only ones who could have gotten there before I left, or turned off location sharing, were real life friends and neighbors, anyway.)

        The most similar app I can think of is MapMyRun if you turn on Live Tracking AND share it with friends. (Check Facebook Messenger, Mitch.)

  2. rummuser says:

    I hardly ever leave the home and do not mind the pin showing up if it does on some other phones. I need it on for the odd times that I send for cabs.

    • Again, this is not about turning GPS on or off. It’s about turning LOCATION SHARING on or off. In other words, letting people you choose see where you are. Not just YOU seeing where you are, or GOOGLE seeing where you are, or even an app like Uber seeing where you are.

  3. Anklebuster says:

    This is both creepy and intriguing. The only fun things I can come up with are Scavenger Hunt clones. I think Jackbox Games has a more compelling interface for mobile shenanigans. The serious uses you describe are very helpful, though.



    • I’m not sure why my son thinks it’s “creepy” when I share MY location with HIM (I get that he might feel that way if I insisted he share his with ME, but…?)

      The fact is, if you have a phone, and it has GPS, and you turn on GPS at all, SOMEONE, SOMEWHERE can find you. (Even without GPS, the cellular service provider can probably find you, given enough reason to bother.) The issue is whether you’re in control of when, how much, and with whom you share location info. I like the way Google does it, here, and its potential as a safety feature outweighs any worries I have about anyone abusing it. Other than to give me sh** for not moving enough. But for that, there are always fitbit friends.

      I’ll have to check out Jackbox Games. And who doesn’t love a good Scavenger Hunt? C’mon… maybe it’s time I run another on this blog?

  4. Anklebuster says:

    A case could be made for the assertion that ALL games are–ultimately–scavenger hunts: find the winning path; find the winning strategy; find Waldo.

    I would enjoy your version of a Scavenger Hunt. You put so much effort into making something worthwhile. 🙂



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