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Google Maps will now let you share your location, creating a whole new set of privacy concerns

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Google Maps Returns To Apple's iPhone Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Google has announced new features for Google Maps, including some that make it easier to share your location with contacts, which could spur privacy concerns.

Altogether, the updates don’t mark a sweeping change as the company has been careful about how it tweaks the service. That’s because Maps is Google’s most-used app after YouTube and the fourth-most-used app overall with over 95 million people accessing it every month, according to comScore. Maps has become crucial to Google’s mobile strategy.

Given that, it’s noteworthy that the changes don’t include any new ways for Google to make money from Maps.

Location sharing is the most significant update. People can let anyone else know where they are by sending a text message with a link. The link can be opened by anyone, even if they don’t have the Maps app. People can also share their location within the app to others who use Maps.

That could raise all kinds of privacy concerns. The links, for example, can be shared to anyone else through a simple copy and paste, whether or not the original user intended their information to be known to a wider circle. The links will expire after three days, or earlier if the user sets the date.

But Maps product manager Ben Greenwood noted there are already ways a person could share your location. “It’s also possible they could take a screenshot of where you are,” he added.

Additionally, users who share their location via the app can do so for set periods of time, or indefinitely until they turn the feature off. People will receive email reminders every two or three weeks that it’s still on.

That level of location sharing could be a problem in an abusive relationship where one person could demand the other keep the feature turned on, making it easier for them to track their whereabouts.

Maps lead executive Jen Fitzpatrick said the sharing technology isn’t new and anyone can turn it off at any time. The user is in control, she added.

The company further noted it’s working with a domestic abuse agency, Community Overcoming Relationship Abuse, or CORA, to research how to best protect the online privacy of people dealing with abusive relationships.

The new features also do not at this time integrate with Assistant, the voice and text-enabled virtual assistant platform on Google Home and Google’s Pixel phone.

Maps will also work with a total of 14 ride-sharing apps in 70 countries, up from nine in January, but does not include the Waze Carpool app Google is piloting.

Update: Includes additional information on when sharing links expire as well as how users can turn off sharing features within the app.


This article originally appeared on Recode.net.

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