Location Tracking and Other Mobile GPS Services

GPS allows you to track and share your device's location

Most smartphones come equipped with GPS capabilities, which track the device's location and allows for precise turn-by-turn directions, local search results, device tracking, and other services.

While it is possible to legally track a cell phone, there are privacy and user notification concerns to consider.

Location-Based Services

Here are some of the services available on any iOS or Android device with GPS functionality:

  • Navigation or turn-by-turn directions for walking, driving, cycling, and public transit.
  • Real-time positioning on map services and apps.
  • Location sharing for friends and family.
  • Local search for restaurants, stores, and other nearby points of interest
  • Track, analyze, and storage of exercise or workout data.
  • Location-based information portals, such as museum or park recordings.

Smartphone Tracking Via GPS

By its nature, any smartphone with a built-in GPS chip can be tracked. Tracking falls into three categories, including location sharing, voluntary tracking, and secret tracking.

  • Location Sharing Tracking. Location-sharing apps, such as Glympse and Find My Friends, show your real-time location to the group of friends or family you've selected. These applications help you connect with friends or business associates but should be used with care, especially when using the public access feature. You may view friends' locations on your phone or via a web browser.
  • Voluntary Tracking. Real-time tracking of mobile devices via GPS moved into the mainstream with the introduction of AT&T FamilyMap, Sprint Family Locator, and other carrier services that display phone locations. Through smartphone or browser tracker apps, users can set alerts for when the tracked phone enters or leaves certain locations. This is useful for providing automatic notification when children arrive at home or sports practice, for example. In addition, cell phone location is built into the national enhanced 911 service.
  • Secret Tracking. Secret or concealed tracking by individuals is not legal and is not available through carriers.

When used properly, GPS provides valuable services and peace of mind for parents and loved ones. As with any technology, care must be taken to respect privacy and to prevent the release of private data.

Was this page helpful?