Millie Hurst | Contributing Writer | Wednesday, 18 October 2017

WhatsApp Are Launching A Live Location Feature And We\'re Not Sure How To Feel About It

WhatsApp Are Launching A Live Location Feature And We're Not Sure How To Feel About It

The Debrief: On first glance, we find the whole thing a bit creepy

WhatsApp are launching a live location sharing feature, allowing contacts to track each other in real time, and we can't decide whether it's a handy tool to help us meet up with friends, or just really creepy.

Up until now, we've been able to share our location on WhatsApp as a static, one-time share, but this update, arriving in ‘the coming days', will mean that your contacts can see your location on the go - just like the Find My Friends app. 

The Facebook-owned messaging service boasts 1 billion daily active users and has been coming up with all kinds of new updates – it may even be launching a feature that allows users to recall a message they sent within the last five minutes, as long as it hasn't yet been read by the recipient. Good news for those of us who often send risky text messages.

The live location sharing feature, which WhatsApp says is end-to-end encrypted, allows users to share their location in one-on-one conversations or in a group chat. And it works even when you’re not actively using the app. 

Recently, a similar feature on Snapchat called Snap Map created serious concern among police, schools and child safety campaigners, about teenagers unwittingly sharing their location with everyone in their contact lists.

To be honest, we're still a little dubious about the safety implications of this latest update, but nor is it not something we have to use all the time. It only shares your whereabouts with certain contacts, rather than our entire contact list and Zafir Khan, Product Manager at WhatsApp told Gadgets 360 that it’s ‘short-term in nature’. The default length of time to share your whereabouts is one hour, but you can also select the options of 15 minutes and 8 hours and it can be switched off at any time. You can also see live traffic data as an overlay, which is handy if you’re waiting for someone.

'Whether you're meeting up with friends, letting loved ones know you're safe, or sharing your commute, live location is a simple and secure way to let people know where you are,' said WhatsApp. 

“We hope that it provides utility in those scenarios where people are coordinating and meeting up in the real world. We give users control so they can stop sharing at any time and sharing a live location is just as secure as sending any other communications over WhatsApp in that it is end-to-end encrypted,” Khan said

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So how will WhatsApp live location sharing work?

To activate the live location tracker, tap the Plus icon on your iPhone or the Attach icon on Android and then you can select the length of time the share will be active for. 

But surely it’ll gobble up our battery?

Probably, although Khan says their engineering team have worked on optimising battery: 'We are just launching this feature so this will be something that we also continuously optimise over time as we get more usage of the feature.' 

The new update will available worldwide very soon, and it'll still be possible to use the good old-fashioned static location share that we’re used to.

Like this? You might also be interested in:

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Snapchat's 'Snap Map' Is A Major Privacy Threat And We're So Not Here For It

Follow Millie on Twitter: @milliehurst_