Google has definitely made some progress in the field of privacy through the years. More often than not we still see cases where the company’s newest services and features are found to include sneaky secondary effects, leading to yet another court case where Google is sued for privacy violations. The concern-raiser this time: a new Google Maps feature that allows anyone to share their real time location with friends. It was quickly revealed the new feature can be easily exploited by wrongdoers. Next time a friend or colleague wants to exchange your current location with each other, should you just forget about using it altogether or can you avoid having your location exposed?
This is the name of the new Google Maps feature, and from a distance it surely looks more than a handy tool. In fact, this is especially useful for finding exactly where a friend is in a large location like a park just by sharing a link. The link can be opened by anyone, even those who don’t have Google Maps installed, and will expire in a maximum of 3 days, but you can also set your own time limits and this way your contacts know when you’re about to leave. In addition, you can also share your route if you’re on the way or late to something, and your friends will be able to see your progress in real time. This same feature can be used the other way around too, so that a friend can help you with directions to reach that impossible to find restaurant, and it integrates a considerable number of ride-sharing apps.
On the other hand though, one of the main concerns this could raise is the fact that locations are simply shared by this same link, which in turn can be copied and pasted and, therefore, shared by anyone without you having a clue about it. Think of this real-case scenario: if you happen to share the link with your contacts while using an insecure public Wi-Fi, any eavesdroppers that may be in the network will be able to easily access and share it with whomever they want. Along the same lines, the new location sharing feature can help stalkers and relationship abusers pursue their victims since it gives them access to real-time location data. Google is well aware of this and it actually worked with the so-called Community Overcoming Relationship Abuse group to understand how it can assure those who live in abusive relationships can have their privacy assured.
Although many use VPNs for a simple virtual change of their location, they are actually helpful to secure connections too, especially on mobile and when using the aforementioned public Wi-Fi hotspots. The vast majority of VPN providers, including some of the world’s top ones, offer their VPN’s for mobile, either through special designated apps or via manual configurations on special protocols. So if you really want to share your real-time location or just feel like giving the new feature a try, at least choose to do it under VPN protection so that you share it through an encrypted connection.
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