If rumours are to be believed, instant messaging app WhatsApp is currently working on a feature that would allow users to track the location of their friends in real time.
Though its claimed that the Live Location Tracking feature is still in progress, and will likely be disabled by default, the details are enough to send a chill down the spine of any privacy advocate. As PhoneArena reports:
“The tracking can be kept on for 1 minute, 2 minutes, 5 minutes, or indefinitely. This comes in handy if you’re supposed to meet the gang at a certain location and time, and you want to see how far away from the destination every one in the group is.”
To many ears, this feature sounds almost dystopian.
But is it really as bad as it sounds?
Location tracking is always one of those things that sounds inherent bad from a privacy perspective. After all, what privacy can you have when everyone knows where you are?
However, like any other type of location tracking, this feature can and no doubt will be useful for many. Parents might find it helpful, groups of friends might love it, and even people heading out on a blind date might take comfort in knowing that someone is tracking where they are compared to where they’re supposed to be.
The issue really centres around how easy it will be to turn this location tracking off.
If the feature is an inescapable one, it can be negative. If it can be turned on and off as per the user’s wishes, however, then it isn’t necessarily a major threat to online security.
It’s claimed that you will be able to turn location tracking off, so others members of a group can no longer see where you are. Some users might feel more comfortable never turning it on at all.
As ever, no matter what features appear in an app, the responsibility is on the part of the user—to remain informed, to remain smart, and to use the app how they feel comfortable using it, all while keeping privacy at the forefront of their mind.
A feature is neither good nor evil. Misusing it, however, will always cause privacy concerns.
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