Is this new WhatsApp update useful or a little bit creepy?

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  • The jury's out for us on this one...

    Many of us now use WhatsApp more frequently than we send a text. This year the Facebook-owned messaging app reported one billion active users, meaning one in seven people now regularly find themselves trapped in an endless ‘Laura’s birthday’ group when a simple text about the time and location of the event would have been fine. The app is regularly tinkered with to keep up with demand – just in case Laura’s friends need to share any additional details of exactly how they’re getting to the party – but reactions to the latest WhatsApp update have been mixed.

    The messaging app has just announced a new live location tracking feature that allows users to share their movements in real time. ‘Whether you’re meeting up with friends, letting loved ones know you’re safe, or sharing your commute, live location is a simple and secure way to let people know where you are’ says WhatsApp.

    Users can set a time limit on how long their location is available for, and if they don’t need to use it (or don’t want the friend they’re already late for knowing they’ve stopped into Whistles en route) they can stop the tracker at any time.

    WhatsApp has addressed security concerns by also reassuring users that the feature is encrypted and controlled by the person being ‘tracked’, rather than the tracker. But there are still concerns that allowing close reading of a user’s location could compromise their safety, or potentially encourage controlling behaviour.

    Snapchat got into hot water earlier this year with the launch of Snap Map, which allows a user’s network of friends to see where they are using location, speed of travel and phone usage.

    Along with the new live location tracker WhatsApp update, the app is also in the process of testing technology that could allow users to recall and edit a message that hasn’t yet been read – a godsend for anyone with the habit of sending impulsive late-night messages and watching with increasing nausea for the double tick to appear.

    If you do feel comfortable letting users on a group track your location, here’s how the feature works:

    1. Open the group you want to share your location with
    2. Hit the plus button in the bottom right of the screen and select ‘location’
    3. Click on ‘share live location’
    4. Pick the length of time you want to share your location, hit send and a map will appear with you on it as a moving dot
    5. More than one person at once can do this

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