Group Location Sharing Followup

I received more feedback than I had expected on my recent link to an article about people who routinely — and often permanently — share their live location with friends, and I thought it was worth highlighting here.

A reader sent me this by email, which I am publishing with permission:

[…] I do share my location with a couple of long-time trusted friends. I’m a full-time RVer, and I not only move around from place to place, but spend a lot of time boondocking in the desert or on other public lands. Having my friends able to see my location if necessary makes me feel a bit safer. I know other full-time RVers who do this, but we’re a small minority of the general population.

And, on a similar note, Stuart Breckenridge shares this use case:

It’s common in cycling clubs to share live location should something untoward happen. Garmin/Telegram/Find My (etc.) are all useful for this.

And Nathan Snelgrove:

I also actually know women who share locations with friends and tell them when they’re out with men they don’t know and where they should be on the map. That use case is very real.

Jennings also mentioned that use case in the article I linked to, citing a 2019 TechCrunch piece by Rae Witte, and noted how often families use it to know the whereabouts of their children. All of these responses make sense to me. This angle unfortunately explains the popularity of the Life360 app, which is now being sued for selling the location data of children to third-party data brokers. Safety is such a smart rationale that it is disappointing to see such private data entrusted to garbage businesses with exploitative side hustles.

I received a few other replies for why people use permanent location sharing, too, most commonly within families. One, also from Snelgrove:

My wife and my in-laws all do it. We started doing it together when we would ski together, because it’s so easy to lose each other skiing. But far and away the most common use now is checking to see how far away they are if we know they are coming over for dinner.

From Felix, via email, also published with permission:

Indispensable for one use case: Picking up kids from kindergarten. Spares us the question “got time to pick ’em up today?” As I can see whether my wife has already left the office or is still miles away. Also: I’d rather share my location with her than to feel guilty not seeing her message “where you at?” (Which, to me, feels more intrusive, ironically)

These both feel like good examples of the convenience of sharing locations within a family, which reflects my own use case: when I am making a timing-sensitive dinner, I occasionally check my partner’s location on her way home from work. But neither reflects the apparently common case of sharing with a bunch of friends.

Wil Turner, in 2015, wrote a lovely piece about how the Find My network led to chance encounters with friends while travelling:

I wait on an overhead walkway in the reflected lights of a Las Vegas evening for a friend. We live five hundred miles apart, and are lucky to be briefly so close. He is here with friends from high school, I with some from Houston, some from San Francisco. In a small bar we have a drink and he puts Johnny Cash on the record player. It’s a brief break from the rest of our weekends, which are a brief break from the rest of our lives.

Except in so many ways neither of these are a break, both of our lives are a mishmash of locations and people that we have somehow managed to keep up with for a decade or more. Thanks to jobs, education, and opportunities that take us from one place to another and to technology, from Instagram to Find my Friends, we’re in fact growing more connected to more people.

I guess I need to get out more.