On a night out, junior Mckenna Rausch opens her phone and swipes through her apps until she comes across a purple icon. A map showing the location of little moving avatars — her family members — lights up her screen.
Life360, an app founded in San Francisco, is used by many students like Rausch and her parents for location tracking.
The app allows users to create circles of people who can track one another, with permission, for safety purposes, specifically among family members.
Junior Grace Corrigan said her family uses the app as a safety precaution, and though she said she does not mind its tracking features, she said the app has the potential to be an invasion of privacy if used obsessively.
“It’s helpful if it is used as a (safety precaution) and parents are not constantly asking you about it,” Corrigan said. “But I think that it can be an invasion of privacy if parents are constantly looking at it and questioning what you are doing.”
Rausch said she has experienced tracking with this app in her own family, something she said is frustrating as it leaves little room to gain trust in a parent-child relationship.
“It can be helpful if I’m in a bad situation and my parents need to find me, but it’s turned into something my parents use at all times,” Rausch said. “It takes away the opportunity to gain trust with your parents about letting them know where you are.”
Corrigan said if she were a parent, she would use an app like Life360 purely in emergency situations, preserving trust while still ensuring the safety of her family.
“Ultimately, it is best to trust your child,” Corrigan said. “I would not check it unless I thought my child was in danger.”
While the app can be used as a safety precaution, there are ways around Life360’s tracking. Rausch said users can pause their location, which stops others from being able to see where someone is.
She said she has used this feature because she felt uncomfortable knowing the app would have access to information about her location.
“I have paused my location not because I necessarily want to hide what I’m doing, but more because it makes me feel uncomfortable that I could be tracked on my every move,” Rausch said.
Sophomore Ella Bishop said she does not think of tracking apps as an invasion of privacy when used by high school students.
“I think at our age it’s less an invasion of privacy and more a safety feature, but I can understand how as you get older it may feel more invading,” Bishop said.
Rausch agrees and said the app can be used in non-invasive ways.
For instance, she said she has a circle on Life360 with her friends and is able to use the app to find where to meet people.
Rausch said, “Only a few of my friends can track me, and I don’t mind that they can because it’s mostly used just to see where to meet people.”
So while some see Life360 as an invasion of privacy, others say its purpose as a safety precaution used by parents means it’s not all bad.
Bishop said, “For the most part I do feel OK with my parents having my location because in some sort of emergency it could be life-saving.”