iOS 7: Making Find My Friends useful and less creepy

If you or a friend has that problem of never turning up on time and leaving you waiting, Apple's Find My Friends app may help. In this short report I'll show you how.

making_find_my_friends_useful_and_less_creepy.png

Privacy

Find my Friends uses iOS 7's location features. I recognize many people have a problem with these following the Snowden revelations. These are Apple's privacy promises for the service:

  • For someone to see your location, you must first give that person explicit permission.
  • Your location is sent from your device only when a friend requests to see it -- it is not transmitted or recorded at any other time.
  • You can hide from all of your friends at any time with one click.
  • Last known location data is stored on Apple's servers in an encrypted format for only 2 hours, then permanently deleted.
  • If you do not have a passcode lock set, you are signed out of Find My Friends after 15 minutes of inactivity.

Starting point

To begin using Find My Friends

  • Download and install the app
  • Launch and login with your Apple ID
  • Agree to Push Notifications and Location Sharing
  • Now add friends. To do so tap the + button and enter the email address(es) of friends you want to add.

Your friends will be emailed to ask if they want to share their location with you. If they accept you can see where they are, and they can see you.

Temporary friends

You can share locations for a limited time -- useful when working in groups, visiting a conference or what not.

  • To do this, launch the app and tap the Temporary tab at the bottom of the window.
  • You can share your location temporarily for hours, days or weeks.

Application

You now know how to set up both permanent and temporary connections with chosen friends. Now let's look at using this information.

Scenario: You have a meeting in town at 2pm, but you know the person you plan to meet isn't particularly punctual, so set up temporary location sharing between you and the other person(s) as above.

Once you've achieved this you can launch the app, select the friend you want to be notified about and tap the More… button in the toolbar.

A contact card opens at the bottom of which you can choose Notify Me or Notify (your friend). In this dialog you can choose to set a notification when you or your friend arrive at or leave a specific place, or even set a notification when you or your friend are within a certain radius of the destination location.

This lets you set a notification that activates when you or your friend leaves their starting point to attend the meeting, or when your contact or yourself are a certain distance away from the destination. This should ensure you aren’t kept waiting at the destination because you'll have better insight into when your contact will show up.

Once you have created a Find My Friends connection you can ask Siri to help set notifications up, just say (for example): "Notify me when [your contact name] leaves their current location."  

A final tip

iOS collects Frequent Locations data about you when Location services are active. You can check what's there and delete the History database in Settings>Privacy>Location Services>System Services>Frequent Locations.

The History sits at the bottom of the page -- explore the categories to see what it knows about your movements. Apple says this information is "kept solely on your device" and is used for certain services -- but you can delete it if you like.

I hope this report helps you better understand Find My Friends.

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