In 2011, and as part of the novelties of the fifth version of the iOS operating system, Apple launched the “Find my friends” application. Still anchored in the years of “skeumorphism” (the design trend that tried to imitate real objects in the user interface), it was presented as a stitched light brown leather notebook that today we would consider an offense to good taste.
In 2011, however, the debate about it wasn’t about its design but about its purpose. What Apple proposed was an app with which to know the location of friends and family at all times, using the phone’s GPS or the WiFi location system in the case of the iPad. It was not the first app of its kind, but its inclusion by default in the operating system of iPhones and iPads raised questions about its scope. “An easy way to meet friends? Sure. Evil? Quite possibly,” summarized the Cult of Mac website.
Of course, the application had several mechanisms to protect the privacy of the users. It was necessary to give permission to a family member or a friend so that they could see our location and this permission could be restricted temporarily. This information was also only accessible to the parties involved, Apple did not have access to it, but in 2011 the feeling was that we were getting too close to dangerous ground.
Today, many of those fears seem to have disappeared. We live in an era where we constantly share location. Unknowingly, many times, with large corporations looking for more data to feed more detailed profiles that improve the effectiveness of the ads. Knowing it, on other occasions, when we send, for example, the location by WhatsApp to a friend. The very act of looking at someone’s location is losing its “voyeuristic” quality. We believe we have the right to know where the pizza we just ordered is on the map and the route followed by the delivery man who brings it home.
As a result, the attitude towards “Find My Friends”, which in iOS 13 has been renamed “Find”, has also changed. “I have convinced my friends to share their location with me indefinitely. The idea is that I can wake up and see where they are. When we make dinner plans, I can see them right around the corner on the way to the restaurant. I have created a friendship perfect, just like in the movies: we can come together easily and at any time, and our stories come together in a coherent drama, ” explains writer Kaitlyn Tiffany in a recent piece for The Atlantic.
“Find” is installed by default in iOS but, as we mentioned before, no one can check your location if you have not given permission before. In the app you can configure who can request to share the location, deactivate the function if it has been previously activated and select which device is the one that sends our location in case we have two active phones, or an iPad and an iPhone, for example. If there is no data connection or active WiFi, the device – of course – will not be able to send its location.
Although there is no “official” app on Android to perform this function, since 2017 the Google Maps application allows it to be done in a similar way. It is possible to share our position on the map with a contact, indefinitely or temporarily, and even know the battery status of the associated device.
The name change in “Find”, in any case, heralds a future in which the real-time location of people, pets and objects will play a more relevant role. “Find” now brings together the “Find My Friends” and “Find My [Device]” functions, which allowed you to search for Apple products, such as iPhones, iPads, Macs or AirPods that belonged to the user. Rumors suggest that Apple is also finalizing the launch of smart labels that can be attached to all kinds of products to be able to find them using the app.