If you’ve ever tried to meet up with friends at a big expanse like Central Park or Golden Gate Park, you know it can be a pain to find the exact spot where they’re hanging out.
Google wants to help.
The search giant on Wednesday unveiled a new feature for Google Maps called “location sharing” that lets you reveal your exact location to a contact for a certain period of time — from 15 minutes to 3 hours, or until you turn off the feature.
You can also share a driving or walking route if you’re going from one place to another, and your friends will be able to see your progress on the map. If you’re running late for an event, you can send your route so friends or family don’t have to text you for updates.
The new feature will also let you do other things related to your friend’s location, like give you directions that lead to them or find restaurants around them.
You can either share your location directly through the Google Maps app, or send a friend a short link that shares your whereabouts through text or any other messaging app. You can use an iPhone or Android phone to share your location. To track someone else’s location, you can use one of those phones, as well as the mobile web and desktop computers.
The announcement underscores the company’s growing ambition for Google Maps to be more than just a destination for maps and directions. With more than a billion users, it’s become a tool for local recommendations, real-time info on how busy a restaurant is, and a cheat sheet to remember where you parked your car.
“We’re shifting from our job being mapping the world to our job being mapping your world,” Jen Fitzpatrick, Google’s vice president of geo, local and maps, said during a press roundtable Tuesday in San Francisco.
But the new feature could also put Google in a tough spot if people use it to remotely stalk others. Google did research with a group called Community Overcoming Relationship Abuse to understand the challenges of online privacy. Also, the company routinely reaches out to advocacy groups before releasing products such as location sharing.
Still, Fitzpatrick didn’t directly respond to a question about an abusive partner using it to track someone.
“To be very clear, location sharing is a technology that already exists out there in the world, and has for a very long time,” she said. “It’s already the case that anybody with, shall we say, bad intentions can already find many other apps and means out there to do location sharing. We don’t feel like we’re necessarily changing the game on what’s possible here.”
This isn’t the first time Google has done something that involves location sharing. In December, the company announced an app called Trusted Contacts, which lets you share your location or route with someone in case you think you’re in danger.