Neptune Navigate Blog

Tips for online safety, security, and responsible digital citizenship for parents, kids, and families.

Is There Really Such A Thing As Family-Friendly Location Tracking Apps?

December 9, 2021

https://themarkup.org/privacy/2021/12/06/the-popular-family-safety-app-life360-is-selling-precise-location-data-on-its-tens-of-millions-of-user
Recent news reports that the popular online safety app for families and children called Life360 has been selling location data on its 33 million users worldwide. The app is marketed as a way for parents to safely track their children’s location using their cell phones. However, the notorious “fine print” states that the company “may also share your information with third parties in a form that does not reasonably identify you directly.” According to former employees, the company doesn’t take safety seriously enough to ensure that the private information obtained through location tracking isn’t traced back to users. Life360 has made millions of dollars selling location data to advertisers, investors, and even government agencies. And if that isn’t enough, the company is staged to expand into other areas of “digital safety”.  But is any of this really safe?  While there are certain circumstances where the app could have some benefit, there are even more circumstances where this data has the potential to put you and your family in danger. Unlike location data that allows access “while in use”, Life360 requires your location to be on at all times for the app to function. That means your private information and that of your children can be tracked 24-7.  It’s important to note that while the company assures its users that they “de-identify” personally identifiable information prior to selling the information, the data sold still includes the tracking device’s ID code as well as its coordinates. According to privacy experts, mobile ID numbers are more valuable and a much better identifier than even a name. The ID code can be used to track your whereabouts at any given time and place, by any organization that wants to pay for this data,  including individuals that may use it in nefarious ways. While some apps are an obvious “no” when it comes to location tracking, apps that claim to be safe and family-friendly are often taken at face value with no questions about their digital security. Now, more than ever, we need to be digitally literate and make online security a priority. You can start by reading the fine print in apps, questioning the use of third-party vendors, and asking what information is collected and how it’s being used.

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