Google has introduced a new app that allows you to give permission for select family members and friends to track your location. The idea behind Trusted Contacts is that someone knows where you are in case anything goes wrong, and it could be a very important way to stay safe. The app is free, easy to set up, and we’ll show you how in this quick tutorial.

See also: Keep your kids safe onlineHow to use Android Device manager to track a lost phone | How to find my iPhone

How to track family and friends online: What is Trusted Contacts?

Trusted Contacts is a way to share your location and status with a few close friends so they can make sure you’re safe. Once you grant them permission they can see if you’ve recently used your phone, moved location, as well as the general status of your smartphone battery. The intention isn’t to turn your friends into stalkers, but instead give the reassurance that someone is looking out for you.

It makes the most sense in the context of say a late night when you might be walking home by yourself. If you wanted you could turn on the tracking feature and send friends a message so they can know where you are.

Trusted Contacts would also be very useful if you’ve gone somewhere unfamiliar - perhaps a trek into the wilds - where there wouldn’t be people around to help if you got into difficulties. The advantages of this style of app will also appeal to parents wanting to keep an eye on their children as they venture out into the world.

The app is similar to Find my Friends on iOS or Android Device Manager, but with a few extra features. See also: How to track a phone - locate a lost Android, lost iPhone, or lost Windows phone.

Perhaps the most important safety feature is that if friends are concerned that you might be in any kind of trouble they can request your location. The app then gives you five minutes to deny the request, but if it doesn’t receive a command it will automatically provides the details.

Settings can be changed at any time, and the user always retains control over who can track them and who can’t.

How to track family and friends online: Setting up Trusted Contacts

Download the app from the Google Play Store. After launching it for the first time you’ll see a series of pretty animated screens that take you through the various feature of the app.

How to track friends and family online

This is a tracking app and will need your location to be able to work properly, so grant this permission when prompted. Google states that the data is kept private in the app and shows your current location along with a map of your recent activities.

As the name suggests, you’ll need to select which people you trust with your location. To do this allow the app access to your Contacts, then choose the ones you want by tapping on the Add button on the right side of the screen. The people you choose don’t have to have Trusted Contacts installed on their phones, or even a Google account, although they will need one if they want to request your location.

How to track friends and family online

With the contacts selected you’re good to go. Now your friends will receive an email letting them know that they are able to access your location and status either through a browser interface or the free Trusted Contacts app.

How to track family and friends online: Using Trusted Contacts

Once you’ve got your list of trusted friends up and running you can start using the app. The Home page shows a list of the friends you have added, beneath which will either be a status or a message letting you know that they haven’t added you back yet.

How to track family and friends online

If friends download the Trusted Contacts app and add you then they will see several possible status updates, each with different meanings.

Active recently - the phone has been used or moved within the last 30 minutes

Activity in the last hour - similar to above but for an hour

Low battery, battery dead, or Offline - again, pretty self-explanatory.

If you want to let people know where you are then just tap the orange circle in the top right corner that has a location icon inside. This opens up a new window with two choices: Share with selected contacts or Send alert. The first simply lets people know where you are and allows them to see your location history for the next 24 hours, or until you turn off the Sharing option.

How to track family and friends online

Each trusted contact you select receives an email letting them know you’ve shared your location, and they can access the information either by tapping the View Updates in the app, or by viewing the same information via the browser link included in the email.

The second is an urgent message that tells people you need immediate help. It doesn’t waste time asking who to choose, instead it just sends the alert to all trusted contacts on your list. Those with the app installed will hear their alarm tone begin to play and see your location. Friends choosing the browser option will receive an email telling them you need assistance and providing a link to your location.

How to track friends and family online

If you’re worried about someone and want to see where they are then go to the Home screen, tap on a contact, and select the ‘Ask for XXX’s location’.

How to track friends and family online

The app will then ask the other person to confirm they want to share it with you. If they don’t respond within five minutes you’ll automatically receive the map details of their location. You can do the same thing via the web if you open the original email you received from the person and press the Request location button. 

Trusted Contacts is a simple app. It doesn’t come loaded with features or options, but that’s one of the best things about it. You just find the information you want quickly so that you know when to stop worrying or start helping. Download it today, and get your friends to do the same. You never know when something like this could be just what you need.