Google's Trusted Contacts helps family keeps tabs on you -- if you want them to

trusted contacts

Feel unsafe walking home from work alone late at night? Well, now your smartphone can escort you. 

Google has released a new app that allows you to share your location with family and friends, or lets you check in on their location. The app is meant to be used as a safety app, for when people are either lost or feel like they are in danger, but has other use cases, as well. 

In IT Blogwatch, we ask you to trust us.

So what is this app? Ron Amadeo has the background:

Google launched a "personal safety app" for Android called Trusted Contacts. The new app offers [a] location-sharing service...that Google envisions for use in emergency situations.
After installing the app, you...flag some of your contacts as "trusted." Then you'll be able to send your location to a trusted contact or ask for their location. is built around the "emergency" use case, complete with a dead man's switch for location requests.

A dead man's switch? What does that mean? Philip Michaels explains:

Say you're due home late...and you still haven't walked in the door...past the appointed time. Your worried loved one can launch the Trusted Contacts app...and request your location. You'll be prompted to respond; if you don't answer back in 5 minutes, Trusted Contacts sends that person your last known location. The app also comes in handy for sending out your location during those times when you're lost, running...behind schedule or feeling like you're in danger.

What else does it do? Alexandra Arici has some more details:

The app invites you to add up to 50 “trusted contacts” to your inner circle...Trusted contacts can see if you are online or whether you have been moving around. In case you are currently offline or out of battery, the app will display your last location.
The app can be useful in more mundane situations too. Let’s say you are meeting a co-worker somewhere...The app allows him/her you in real time as you arrive to the meeting point.
The app works vice-versa too. Tap it to open Google Maps on your phone and watch you contacts move a form of a dot.

Overall, the app sounds good. Are there any concerns about it? Alan Henry raises some good points:

The feature...[is] super useful from a safety perspective, make no mistake...However, as with any location-sharing feature...privacy comes into play as well. Abusive spouses and partners could easily misuse this tech to spy on their victims, and force them to share their location at all times so they can watch their every move. Similarly, there’s the...grey area of parents using tech like this to track kids...It’s a double-edged sword, and a complicated issue.

Aside from potential privacy concerns, are there any complaints? JRomeo has one:

Only problem is that if I want to know where one of my family members [is], I have to wait 5 minutes before I know...... Why not allow the app to give permanent permission to someone?

So who can get the app? Jaikumar Vijayan is in the know:

The currently available to Android users who can download it from Google Play Store. Google will release an iOS version of the app as well, but has not said when it plans to do so.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

Shop Tech Products at Amazon