Brainstorming on some of the privacy models of some location sharing apps

In the effort of trying to create a spectrum of autonomy/accountability for location sharing apps that can be used in the family domain, and place our app on that spectrum as well, I’ve come up with this sharing/receiving analysis for some of the apps that appear to be on the “extreme” sides of the spectrum:


mSpy is an app A can install on B’s phone to send all types of data (including location updates) to A.  B cannot disable the app and may not even be aware it is installed.


Life360 allows users to create and join (or refuse invitations to join) “circles”.

A user can define with which circle their location updates (x minute interval updates of their GPS position) are shared (e.g. yes with family, but not with colleagues) at any time.

(Not sure if relevant in this paper’s context, but 1. The above implies a traceable history, limited to one day backwards for non-premium users, and 2. Users can create locations to get notified when members of certain circles enter those places).

Users can check-in, which means they share their GPS position with all their circles. This cannot be enabled/disabled for different circles (considered to be a voluntary declaration of their whereabouts).

There are other features such as the “panic button” which sends a panic alert (plus text messages and emails) with your location to every person in your circles.

High autonomy for the child, because Life360 cannot oblige them to share any info they do not want to share or join any circles they do not want to join. But it suffers from the same disability as our non-commitment ePartner (e.g. you can’t promote independence without demoting family security).

Swarm (4sq)

  • With Swarm we can make the distinction between “friends”, “venue managers” and “public”.
  • Users have the ability to request friendship and accept (or refuse) friendship requests from others. Users have the following for privacy options:
  • They can select where their check-ins (place-defined check-ins, like cafés or bars) are shared with venue managers (if the check-in happens in their venue) and/or the public (if they are currently in that venue). Check-ins are always shared with friends.
  • Check-ins are not forced to match GPS location (unlike the above two apps)
  • They can enable a “neighborhood locator” which uses GPS-location to reveal location on the neighborhood level to friends at all time (e.g. Manhattan, Scheveningen, etc.) if no recent check-in has been made for a period of time. This is correct info and cannot be manipulated like check-ins.
  • Swarm can post to third party apps (e.g. Facebook and Twitter) where that app’s privacy settings override that of Swarm.

Friends can include you in their check-in, apparently you cannot prevent them from doing so, even if that was an incorrect check-in. Apparently you can only decide whether that check-in will automatically appear on their Facebook or Twitter feed with your name included. (I need to check this item more).