Geolocation – never be lost again!

The majority of smartphones sold now come with a GPS chip built in. To begin with this GPS chip would be used by the phone to perform relatively basic tasks like showing where it was located on a map.

However with the growth of this technology, alongside the popularity of social media, there has been an explosion in the variety of applications of this technology. Facebook, Twitter and Google+ all allow your location to be tagged to posts, photos and more. Some even allow others to tag you at a particular location (whether you’re actually there or not in some cases). Parents should discuss with their children the implications of this, and the impact it could have on their spiritual (digital) footprint. 

Recently Apple has released the latest version of its mobile operating system (iOS6) which includes some changes to the functionality of their ‘Find my Friends’ app. This app allows users to sign into their Apple account on their iPhone and then share their location with their friends. The user can give their friends temporary, or ongoing access to their location. The new functionality incorporates a technology called ‘geofencing’ – which, simply put, allows notification once the user (with their device) leaves or enters a specific location.

Location services on an iPhone

Imagine how useful this could be for a parent trying to keep track of their children. The child’s phone will automatically send a notification to the parent when they leave school, or arrive home. Or perhaps send a notification when they arrive safely at the house of a friend… the positive and useful applications of this technology are nearly limitless. You can even use this technology to find a lost phone or other device.

BUT… (and isn’t there always a but?!) there are some issues with this technology that we should all be aware of. For example, unless these services are turned off on a smartphone, any photo taken with the phone will also have this geolocation information attached to the image. It is then relatively easy for anyone who can see the photo to see where it has been taken. Sharing this information carries a risk, and parents should discuss with their children the level of risk they (as a family) are willing to expose themselves to. (On an iPhone location services can be turned off in the privacy menu – you can even turn off location services individually for each app.)


About Dave

Dave is passionate about the use of technology in education, and helping students to develop a biblical understanding of digital technology. Dave is currently teaching at Covenant Christian School.