Companies such as Android and Google are racing to provide consumers with various ways to share and track others’ locations. This surge of location-based data calls has caused students to reevaluate how location sharing impacts their safety and privacy.
Smartphone apps such as Find My Friends and Life 360 allow students to share their location with others indefinitely or for a set period of time. Radio-television-film freshman Summer Fathke said sharing her location with friends felt necessary when she came to UT.
While Fathke said she did not share her location with her friends in high school, when she got to college and started going downtown, sharing her location seemed like a good safety precaution.
“It makes it a lot easier to stick together, especially if someone is not answering their phone or disappears,” Fathke said. “We can check where they are and if they are okay.”
Chemistry senior Derek Ryan Garza shares his location with his four closest friends and said that doing so has been convenient for their friend group.
“Since we are constantly checking to see what (we’re each) doing, we figured it would just be easier to share our location with one another,” said Garza.
While he sees the potential for an invasion of privacy, Garza said being able to control who has access to his location makes him feel comfortable with the feature.
“(Location sharing) makes avoiding plans harder,” Garza said. “For instance, if one of my friends wants to hangout but I just want to relax at home, they will know that I’m not doing anything, and I will feel obligated to hangout.”
Once students provide their friends with such access, however, some might find it difficult to turn off the feature. Neuroscience freshman Smruthi Senthil, who also shares her location with her friends, said she is not afraid of turning off the feature if needed.
“I think after you’re not friends with someone, they shouldn’t have a right to know where you are all the time,” Senthil said.
Amongst other reasons, Fathke and Senthil listed safety as their primary motivation to share their location with their friends. They said that having their friends know their location in case something bad happens gives them a sense of security.
“When we go out on the weekends and are in potentially risky situations, it’s good to know where the people that you care about are,” Senthil said.