Besides, even when you turn the features off you may still be watched. Last year, Google agreed to pay US$93 million to settle claims after it was accused of collecting location data even after users disabled the settings.

Location sharing has been around for more than a decade. Apple’s Find My app was originally released in 2010 for users to locate a lost phone; it then developed into data sharing between friends. The same year, Facebook unveiled Places, a location feature that let users share their movements. This was also the era of location-based social network start-ups like Foursquare.

But what really made tracking seem like harmless fun was the arrival of Snapchat’s location-sharing virtual Map in 2017. Users can now see their friends grouped together as smiling Bitmojis. It looks like a game. A writer for Bustle magazine compared checking on her friends’ locations to playing The Sims. 


If you want to start tracking the people you know then there is some etiquette involved. It is fine to use tracking to check that a friend got home safely at the end of a night out, for example, but not to surprise them on the street.

And think carefully about who you share data with. This is for family and close friends only, not new dates. But there’s a danger of snubbing here to: Putting an end to location sharing is the modern version of cutting someone out of the photos. 

So, I ask my cousin, is it a bit like the rules around mobile phones? In theory you can call anyone at any time of the day but most of us have agreed to leave one another in peace.

Unfortunately, this analogy did not work. While my cousin and his friends are happy to use their phones to track one another, they wouldn’t dream of using them to make calls. 

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