To those like me annoyed being snooped on, what WhatsApp is working on could be a blow to us.
Being monitored and tracked on to some is detestable in the name of privacy. To others, it is necessary to keep tabs.
Sharing your current location with someone is a great way to passive-aggressively explain that you’re on your way when they ask where you are. On the other hand, being on someone’s radar is unwelcome. But it also has other uses, and WhatsApp has now joined rivals Facebook Messenger and iMessage in offering the feature (with its own somewhat unique twist).
The new feature will be available on both Android and iPhone soon, and is accesible the same way you’d normally send your location. According to TechCrunch, you’ll have the option not just to put a pin on the map where you are, but to let them track you continuously for a duration of your choosing. (A version of this feature was tested earlier this year.)
Snapchat and Foursquare have their own versions of live location sharing as well, but the everyday messaging space seems like the best fit to me.
One use for this that seems actually quite helpful is making sure someone gets home all right. There are a few safety apps out there already, but this is a simpler way to keep track of someone if you can’t walk or drive them home yourself. Plus, it’s on a widely used cross-platform app that isn’t Messenger. Unfortunately, WhatsApp is still the ugliest of all the chat apps, but what can you do?
The app is getting a new “live location” sharing feature that allows users to share their location in real-time with the friends they’re chatting with.
The feature, which you can opt-in to from any chat, allows others to view your exact location for fifteen minutes, an hour, or eight hours at a time.
That may sound creepy, but WhatsApp says it’s a “simple and secure way to let people know where you are.” It’s end-to-end encrypted and users can end the location sharing before the designated time period is over if they want.
Privacy aside, the idea of always-on location sharing may be unappealing for other reasons as well. GPS use can often put a big strain on battery life, which could be particularly problematic in markets where people are using lower-end or older devices.
But WhatsApp product manager Zafir Khan says they paid particular attention to the feature’s impact on battery life and made several optimizations so that it wouldn’t be a huge drain, even if users were sharing location for long periods of time.
“Our engineering team spent a significant amount of time optimizing for battery usage,” Khan said, adding that factors like battery life and charging status all play a role.
“All of those things inform how often we get location updates form your device, battery is really critical.”