Google Maps has today announced a new feature to allow you to share your location with others. While that might seem creepy, it’s 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. Foursquare’s 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 you tell 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 Google’s new addition sounds familiar, that’s because the company several years ago used to offer a similar option called Latitude, which was also built into Google Maps. But in 2013, Google decided to instead roll location 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 Google Maps, 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. There’s even a new maps app designed specifically for people following each others’ cars on long road trips.
The new feature is available now but you’ll 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 don’t 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 don’t know or want finding you.)
Location sharing can be a useful feature at times, but it’s also fraught with potential nightmare scenarios — breaking up with a significant other and forgetting you’ve 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 lent a sort of creepy vibe to the social network that’s today focused on letting users more precisely control what information they’re sharing, and with whom.
Facebook in December decided to pull out the precise location sharing component in Nearby Friends and now offers to show proximities and neighborhoods instead.