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Security & privacy

How Google’s Trusted Contacts can help you in an emergency

A massive storm has arrived. There’s a power outage. Your teenager is off somewhere with friends and you’re worried. You check your smartphone, open Google’s Trusted Contacts app, and request your teen’s location. It’s all fine. Your kid is safe at her friend’s house.

This is one scenario where Trusted Contacts, which Google describes as a “personal safety app,” could come into play. The app is now available for both iOS and Android (Apple, free | Android, free).

How it works

Trusted Contacts works by letting you request the location of the people you are connected with. They have to agree to participate and share that information with you. The app opens a map showing where that person is based on the phone’s location data.

This might seem like a potential privacy intrusion, but the app is meant for families and close friends. Trusted Contacts is designed to help you locate your loved ones in an emergency, or for just keeping tabs on people when they’re off traveling, hiking, or away from home.

Tip within a tip: Have a teen? You might need a better way to track their location. Click here for a free way to track GPS, phone calls, text messages and web activity on your teen’s device.

Who can benefit from Trusted Contacts?

It’s a natural fit for parents who want to check in with their kids in a way that’s less intrusive than calling. The app also works just as well for keeping up with other family members and even close friends or co-workers.

You have control over your contacts and can choose to stop sharing your location with them at any time.

What if someone can’t respond?

Trusted Contact’s ability to share your location even if you can’t respond or if your phone is having problems is one of its most powerful features. When you receive a request for location, you can choose to deny it.

If you can’t respond for any reason (such as a dead battery or loss of connection), then the person will receive your last known location, though you can set the amount of time between the request and the response. You can delay the answer up to an hour, which makes sense for situations where you’re hiking in the wilderness or may be in place with spotty network coverage.

Get peace of mind

With Trusted Contacts, you can also share your location with your loved ones if you find yourself in a worrisome situation. Google gives a scenario where you might want to do this. It’s dark and you’re walking home. You share your location with your friend, who can follow along on a map. You can then let your friend know when you arrive home safely.

Trusted Contacts has a lot of similarities with Apple’s Find My Friends app, but Google’s move to make it available for iOS devices gives a big advantage. It no longer matters if you’re on Android and your parents have iPhones. The app will work across platforms. Both apps are free.

If everyone you know only uses iOS, then Find My Friends is a viable option that also lets you get notifications when friends show up in your vicinity. This is handy for meetups in crowded places.

Trusted Contacts and Find My Friends aren’t the only location-sharing apps available. Popular communication app Snapchat recently introduced a Snap Map feature for finding your friends on a map, though it’s more geared for making quick connections in real life than it is for safety like Trusted Contacts. Glympse is another option for real-time location sharing with app versions available for both iOS and Android. Click here for three more personal security apps that can help keep your family safe in an emergency.

You can download Trusted Contacts for Android from the Google Play store and from the iTunes app store for Apple devices.

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