WhatsApp will now let you track your friend’s location.
The app is getting a new “live location” sharing feature that allows users to share their location in real-time with the friends they’re chatting with.
Previously, the app had a location-sharing feature, but it only allowed users to share a static spot on a map. Now, when users opt-in to live location, the friends they’re chatting with can see their exact location updated on a map as they move.
The feature, which you can opt-in to from any chat, allows others to view your exact location for fifteen minutes, an hour, or eight hours at a time.
That may sound creepy, but WhatsApp says it’s a “simple and secure way to let people know where you are.” It’s end-to-end encrypted and users can end the location sharing before the designated time period is over if they want.
Privacy aside, the idea of always-on location sharing may be unappealing for other reasons as well. GPS use can often put a big strain on battery life, which could be particularly problematic in markets where people are using lower-end or older devices. But WhatsApp product manager Zafir Khan says they paid particular attention to the feature’s impact on battery life and made several optimizations so that it wouldn’t be a huge drain, even if users were sharing location for long periods of time.
“Our engineering team spent a significant amount of time optimizing for battery usage,” Khan said, adding that factors like battery life and charging status all play a role.
“All of those things inform how often we get location updates form your device, battery is really critical.”