Google is trying to reinvent the emergency contact form for the smartphone era. The search giant on Monday unveiled a new app and service called “Trusted Contacts” which makes sure your loved ones always know where you are or can find out where you are if there’s an emergency.
During a crisis, friends and family members can request your status to see if you’re safe, and you can respond with your location to let them know you’re okay, or deny the request. If you do not respond within five minutes, the app will automatically broadcast your location to the contact, or your last known location if your phone is offline.
Once you add your closest friends and/or family members as trusted contacts so they can:
- Easily see your status: if you’ve moved recently or you’re online, it shows you were “active recently” to stop them from freaking out if they can’t reach you.
- Request your location: the request shows up on your phone and you can deny it if everything is good and you’re just busy, or if it goes unanswered for 5 minutes, the request passes through and your last known location is sent to them, even if you are offline now.
- Share your location for a period of time: The app also allows you to broadcast your location to a trusted contact, or receive location updates from a trusted contact, in real time. When you share, they’ll get a notification that you’re sharing your location with them, and vice versa. Tap it to fire up Google Maps on your phone and watch their dot move around the map. So if you’re headed home from work and you want your spouse at home to be able to see where you are, you can share it with them and they can watch in real time as you make your way home. (Which, ideally, can eliminate those “can you pick up milk from the store” messages after you’ve already passed the store.) Real-time sharing only works when you want it to. You can share your location in real time whenever you want, and then turn it back off and stop sharing it whenever you want.
Although Trusted Contacts is designed to be a personal safety app, it’s also rife with potential misuses. Jealous boyfriends, abusive spouses, or nosey friends can keep their eyes on your whereabouts at all times if you leave the app passively running in the background, so it’s up to you to carefully choose who you want keeping track of your location.
Trusted Contacts is live on the Play Store now for free, and works on phones running Android 4.1 and up. It seems to be available to everyone.