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Location tracking is here to stay

New York - Since it began in 2011, people have been creeped out by Apple’s Find Friends location-sharing service. Agreeing to let someone see where you are all the time is a big step. But location tracking isn’t going away.

For example, Apple is integrating optional tracking into new family-sharing features and iMessage in iOS 8 this year. But the people won’t stand for it, right? Actually, according to a new survey, they will.

Apple is integrating optional tracking into new family-sharing features and iMessage in iOS 8 this year. Credit: SLATE

The survey comes from Alohar, a start-up that offers ambient, continuous location tracking as a means of communication. If you don’t have time to tell your boyfriend that you’re running late, he can just check. The goal is to use location tracking to make communication easier, and Alohar’s website says the service can “build trust and strengthen relationships”.

“There’s always a privacy concern in the back of people’s minds,” said Sam Liang, Alohar’s chief executive and founder. “But the survey results show that it’s more about trust in relationships. If (users) have trust, most people have no problem sharing their location.”

Of the 522 people who were surveyed, most weren’t too concerned about sharing location data with people they are close to. Eighty percent said there was someone in their lives whom they would share their location with at any time. And 81 percent said there was someone in their lives whom they trusted 100 percent.

The data contains some interesting insights into people’s attitudes towards privacy. For example, 91 percent of respondents said that “privacy is about having control over who knows certain things about me”. Less than 9 percent said that “privacy is about nobody knowing anything about me”.

The results get interesting when you delve into the age breakdowns. One question about whether respondents would share their location with a trusted loved one and whether they have a loved one who would share their location back, had more positive responses from people 30 and older than from 18- to 29-year-olds.

Respondents who are 30 to 44 were the most enthusiastic about sharing their location with someone they trusted. And people aged 45 to 60 felt most sure that a loved one would share their location with them.

Given the stereotype that young people who grew up in the digital age share information freely, it’s surprising that they are the ones who would be the most reluctant to share their whereabouts, and feel the most disconnected. But they may have fewer trusted people in their lives if they haven’t entered a committed relationship yet, or they may be doing more things they want to hide from loved ones.

Still, it seems inevitable that location tracking is going to become standard in our lives. It hasn’t quite taken off yet, but Alohar is clearly relieved that its survey seems to say people are ready. Are you? – Slate

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