Web Culture

Why Tracking Your Significant Other’s Location Isn’t Always Evil

Mihir Patkar 11-02-2015

You have a smartphone; so does your significant other. In a few taps, you can track each other’s movements.


But should you?

Most people’s response is an emphatic, “No!”, but there are many who are rising in defence of tracking. A Samantha Williams article in The Independent, titled I track my boyfriend’s movements because I want to trust him more, not less, recently went viral. The reactions were extreme.

One commenter wrote, “This author does not deserve to have a partner. She is paranoid and a possible stalker.”

Another said, “If you were a man, and your partner was a woman, this sort of thing would most definitely be labeled emotional abuse.”

But is it really so wrong to track your partner’s movements, assuming it’s consensual?


Is It A Lack Of Trust Or A Breach Of Privacy?


A common response: tracking your partner’s movements signifies a lack of trust in the relationship. That’s what blogger and author Clint Edwards felt, when his wife installed the app on their phones.

“I felt a pit in my gut,” he writes. “Not because I’d done anything wrong, or that I was planning to do anything wrong. I wasn’t planning to run off to Mexico and find a new wife, or some other over the top exploit. I just didn’t like the idea of her knowing where I was all the time. It felt like an invasion of my privacy. It felt Big Brother creepy. I wondered if she was installing this because she didn’t trust me for some reason.”

You could argue the Williams article mentioned above loses the high ground on the trust issue with this statement:


Friends who think my behaviour is creepy, controlling or borderline obsessive have pointed out that just because you know where someone is doesn’t mean they are not in that place cheating on you. That’s true, but this is something which means he’d have a harder time getting away with it.

While Williams makes it about trust in a relationship, that’s not what many others see it as. Sometimes, it’s an instinctive reaction, but it quickly dissipates to other topics. That’s what eventually happened to Edwards as well.

The caveat here is that tracking works best when a couple has trust – and needs to be transparent. If it isn’t an open and acceptable situation to both parties, you need to know how to find spy software on your iPhone The Dangers of iPhone Spyware Spying on an iPhone? Reckon spyware is installed on your iPhone? Here's what you need to know about spyware and jailbreak. Read More and be aware of its dangers.


Find My iPhone is great to locate and recover your stolen or lost iPhone How to Track and Locate Your iPhone Using Location Services You can track your iPhone and share or find its location using the iPhone Location Services feature. We show you how. Read More  – but that’s not all it’s good for. MakeUseOf’s own James Bruce uses the app to track his wife, Hui.


“We just thought it was a cool feature, and (already) know each other’s iCloud password. The question of tracking someone being moral or not never crossed our minds,” he says. “It’s never been about trust. I trust her 100%. Anyone who thinks it is about trust or who is disgusted by the idea probably has a guilty conscience.”

Hui says her first reaction was to question why they needed this, but that quickly went away. “We don’t have any secrets, so why would I mind?”

Catharine Higginson, a teacher who found out her husband tracks her location as well as other data on her phone, was initially miffed. But she too realised it wasn’t a trust issue for them, and that her husband saw it as a safety precaution for the whole family, including their children.

“While I was very shocked at first about the extent of the snooping I ultimately don’t have a problem with him doing this because I’m not up to anything,” she wrote in The Mirror.


Tracking Is Practical!

The purpose of technology is to make our lives easier. The supporters of tracking apps say that’s exactly what this is doing.


“Mostly, we just use it as a day to day convenience,” James explains. “She was at the doctor yesterday, so when I took the dog out for a walk, I used it to find her and see if she was on her way back or not; if so, I could go meet her halfway. Neither of us knows the local area that well, so rather than try to coordinate with road names she can’t pronounce or pull out Google maps anyway, it’s just convenient to find where she is and say ‘Keep walking on that road, I’ll be there in a bit’.”

Edwards recounts how he called his wife, who was running late for a meetup, to ask where she was. She told him to just use the tracking app. Why? She was driving, with the kids in the back, and thus risking an accident as well as going to jail for talking on the phone while driving Will You Go To Jail For Mobile Phone Use While Driving? [Opinion] One of the reasons why the smartphone has become popular is its mobility. Now you can read email, browse the web or watch videos from almost anywhere. This has naturally translated to in-car use, resulting... Read More . It was more practical for Edwards to use the app to see where she was.

Higginson mentions several instances where the tracking app has been useful. She missed an important text about a financial transfer, but her husband was able to get to it. She once woke up to a missed call from her daughter at 3am—naturally, panic set in – but  through the tracking app, they could quickly figure out she was at a friend’s place, and accidentally dialed the phone in her sleep.

Both James and Higginson also say it’s a great safety feature, especially for people who are working late and travelling alone. Plus, it’s not mandatory. You can easily opt out of the tracking apps – or just turn off of your phone.

Inside The Minds Of The Trackees


For Edwards, the Find My iPhone app was actually an indication of how boring their lives had become – he or his wife would be in one of four places, and seeing that repeatedly was a reminder of becoming an old married couple. Until one day, his wife told him all the great stuff that happened inside their home, all the small achievements of their children.

“A lot of really exciting things happened today within our family. A lot of individual development. Just because what happened didn’t show up on Find a Friend, doesn’t mean it wasn’t important,” his wife says.

Of course, you can go beyond just tracking location. You can even spy on your spouse with your computer How To Spy On Your Spouse With Your Computer Read More to get everything from text messages to even remotely switching on their phone’s camera. So where do you draw the line? At what point do you need to protect yourself from unethical spying How to Protect Yourself From Unethical or Illegal Spying Think that someone is spying on you? Here's how to find out if spyware is on your PC or mobile device, and how to remove it. Read More ?

James and Hui Bruce don’t think seeing each other’s messages would be a big deal, since they already share an iPad which has both inboxes.

“Whatever. I don’t get any important emails anyway,” says Hui. “Probably it would be easier because I wouldn’t need to forward anything for him to see.The only problem is trying to buy presents — he can see what shops I go into!”

Most of the aforementioned cases also have friends and family who think there is an invasion of privacy and a lack of trust in their relationships. The couples themselves aren’t that bothered about those things, but trust issues do rear their ugly head every now and then.

“Someone else made an interesting point to me that if your other half installs a spying app on your phone maybe it’s because, actually, he’s got something to hide,” writes Higginson. “I hadn’t thought about that – could (my husband) be cheating on me? I don’t think so. But as I don’t control our apps, I wouldn’t know.”

Would You Be Okay With Tracking?

Do these couples make a good enough case for you to take up tracking in your relationships? Do you still think it’s spying on your significant other? In a related vein: should parents spy on their kids? Should Parents Spy On Their Kids? [MUO Debates] Do you spy on your kids? If so, why? If not, why not? This is the question at hand today. These are the questions that we're going to explore in this debate. Read More  Let’s discuss in the comments.

Image Credits: Seraphim Art / Shutterstock, Goritza / Shutterstock, Georgejmclittle / Shutterstock, Ph-Dabphimsri / Shutterstock, James Bruce

Related topics: GPS, Location Data, Online Privacy, Web of Romance.

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  1. Dana
    November 1, 2019 at 3:00 pm

    I have NEVER and will NEVER cheat on my boyfriend but Google Maps keeps saying on in other places near my job and it is driving my boyfriend crazy and he is starting to drive me crazy from always accusing me of lying. This article, and everyone talking about infedelity on here need to realize that tracking is NOT accurate and can destroy relationships for NO REASON. My boyfriend and I look in each others phones all the times, we share passwords to accounts, we TRUST each other with everything, but ever since google Maps keeps getting my location wrong, we argue about this EVERY FREAKIN WEEK! I'm so sick of it!

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  19. Blessed
    August 27, 2017 at 2:18 am

    Hello my ex boyfriend put a tracking app on his phone a couple of months before i broke up with him. I got tired of him accusing me of cheating with several of my neighbor's while im at work so i broke up with him in june. He's now accusing me of traking his phone and all sorts of rude things that i would never do. He's really become delusional to the point he send me text messages that are just crazy rants which dont make sense.

  20. Liz
    June 20, 2017 at 5:58 pm

    My husband refuses to use these apps and even deleted the Friend Finder off his phone. He goes hiking and kayaking all the time and he is not experienced at either and it would be nice to be able to find him if he were in trouble. It also helps me to plan dinners without having to call him. The other good thing about this is that I work pretty far from home and walk though dark parking lots and train stations daily and it would be nice if he could see me and know that if I'm not moving I'm in trouble.

    I had zero concerns about his fidelity but since he is so hell bent on not using this service, even though I've told him about my safety concerns, now I'm actually concerned. I'm more hurt that he clearly doesn't care about my safety more than he cares about being able to sneak off to go fishing when he is supposed to be home or at work I (again, neither of which I care about). So now this is a major issue with us and for what?

    Why try so hard to cover your tracks if you have nothing to hide?

    • Jaime
      September 26, 2017 at 2:17 pm

      Hi Liz, I seem to be in a very similar situation as the one you've described above. I've always looked at Find my Friends as a tool for practical uses. It helps me determine my bf has gotten home safely, or if it's a good time to call once he isn't driving. It also tells me when he's at the gym, so I know not to disturb his workout. The list goes on..

      We've recently gotten into a disagreement when I noticed he had turned off his location. I wanted to know if he was already on his way to our meet up location or if he's still at home. I called to confirm the time and place, except he wasn't very willing to share where he was or what he was doing. I grew worried because he has a history of cheating and my mind immediately went south.

      I see tracking as you do where it's a trust builder, and lessens worries. Why try so hard to cover tracks if there's nothing to hide?

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  30. JStops
    April 13, 2016 at 5:31 pm

    While I understand the argument for trust and not needing the app, my fiance and I are looking into installing some sort of trackers ourselves for practical reasons.

    Recently my fiance was out on a bachelor party- they had been drinking since noon and were wrapping up around 1am. He had texted me to say that he wanted to be home and not spend the night at his friend's (as was originally planned) and would be driving. Naturally, knowing they had been drinking I immediately texted him "DO NOT DRIVE!" and then got no response... for almost 45 minutes, despite multiple phone calls trying to tell him 'don't drive, give me the address and i'll pick you up' I was panicked and trying to find out where he was and ensure that he hadn't in fact tried to drive...

    An hour later he called me to let me know that his phone had died and he was still at their house. He gave me the address and I picked him up but it was the WORST hour of my life. We're looking into putting some trackers onto our phones because I never want to worry like that again. It was the absolute worst feeling in the world.

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  32. Randy
    February 6, 2016 at 6:59 pm

    I don't know if this will upload my comment,,,not a member,,,My wife and daughter are away for medical tourism and we had to do this in a hurry. We are not the most techno savvy couple but wanted to have a tracking software so the home base me her at the house could track for fun and security where they were. I found it depressing we could not find good and reliable software threw "playstore" that we could use until the last minute. I wish there was not the stigmatism that this subject holds as some ability to track is a good thing. Especially when venturing into risky areas.

  33. Anonymous
    June 9, 2015 at 1:44 pm

    Do you know pozzr.com ? Is it for IOS, too?

  34. Mike_M
    February 12, 2015 at 10:07 pm

    Some of these responses...
    If you're that hung up on "tracking" then use an app like Glympse. Each person can choose who tracks them and for what period of time.

    • Mihir Patkar
      February 13, 2015 at 7:44 am

      Wow, I hadn't seen this one before. It's really quite cool, thanks for sharing, Mike!

  35. John
    February 12, 2015 at 2:34 pm

    My wife and I have it on both of our phones. We have no secrets so neither of us mind. We use it to help each other. We don't need it often, opting to call or text, but sometimes it's handy . Just yesterday my wife was driving alone and couldn't pull up Google Maps and drive at the same time so she called me. I pulled up her GPS, and gave her directions so she could drive safely. We also use the app to backup and share texts, etc. It's easier to say "Hey, look at this text thread.", rather than forwarding every individual text and trying to decipher which was said by which side.

    • Mihir Patkar
      February 12, 2015 at 2:37 pm

      Perfect example, John! Thanks so much for sharing :)

    • Besian Arizi
      February 12, 2015 at 2:49 pm

      Very Good. Finding a good purpose for a "digital leash".
      There are good purposes in readings people's mind too!
      There are also good purposes in installing hidden cameras and mics everywhere.
      If you agree with "The end justifies the means" you can keep tracking, spying stalking your loved ones, but I believe that people have the ability to improvise in a non-usual situation, and they can be spontaneous too! Just the idea of depriving a person from making surprises is bad enough (in my opinion). There is no doubt that sometimes tracking can be useful and practical in certain situations, but I'd prefer people to find a way around to solve things or get help without being watched over all the time. Especially my loved ones.

    • Mihir Patkar
      February 12, 2015 at 3:14 pm

      Fair enough, Besian. The thought of squashed surprises hadn't crossed my mind actually, that's a good point!

    • Morena
      November 5, 2018 at 11:39 pm

      I'm a single woman and if I was married, I would feel safe that my husband knows my where abouts, crazy stuff happens in this world and its about safety not trust issues. I don't do anything, if I say I'm going to a store and I'm not back, I would feel safe that someone knows where I'm at just incase something happens to me. I always tell my friends the same thing, call me or text when you get in. I think people that have a problem with it something is wrong. Morals, infidelity have nothing to do with it. I remember when I dated my ex, the douchebag let me go home at 3 am alone. With no car I should have dumped him then. And all he said was text me when you get in ?. I never traveled to his state to see him again. That was the last of it. Here I am on the bus, train in NY and in NJ. I almost missed by bus too. My first love he would ride the Ferry, bus make sure I got home safe and then get on the ferry, boat and train and go back home and called me when he got in. Plus he did it to spend more time with me since we lived a distance from each other. He loved me and made sure I was safe. No man should let a woman travel alone. I told my ex off, and was like WTF is wrong with you? So if my husband wanted that on my phone and we had kids, yes put it on. Because you can't always drive and talk or text. I don't see a problem with it. Technology doesn't always work so if you are meeting up with someone, and an app stalls, if someone knows where you are, they can guide you. What about those kids that drowned years ago because they couldn't call 911 and their parents had no idea where they were. So when that happen, cell phone companies put on the option that all people can call 911 with or without service. but it took 3 boys losing their lives when their car spun off the road in order to implement that.

  36. KazBaaah
    February 12, 2015 at 1:51 pm

    In my mind there is a huge difference between being able to check my husband's location when convenient, and having a running list of every move he made through the day. He gets an automatic push notification when I leave work, because it helps with timing dinner.

    I think it boils down to consent and intent

    • Mihir Patkar
      February 12, 2015 at 1:56 pm

      Exactly, it's about consent and intent! No one's forcing this on anyone, and most spouses honestly aren't curious enough. I don't have any desire to check where exactly my wife is and what she's doing, I just want to know whether she's on her way back so I can order dinner.

    • Morena
      November 5, 2018 at 11:40 pm

      Exactly I agree.

  37. Andy Powell
    February 12, 2015 at 7:45 am

    Apples Find my Friends works much better than find my iphone when "tracking" a spouse.

    It's permission based so they can turn it on and off at will and has features like "notify me" which allows me to get a notification when she leaves a location (ie work) so can put dinner in the over or stop playing on the Xbox and look busy ;-)

    • Mihir Patkar
      February 12, 2015 at 1:30 pm

      Ooh that's a good tip!

  38. heary
    February 11, 2015 at 7:08 pm

    my ex and I tracked eachother. It was helpful for meeting up & guaging ETAs. it once became very handy when I guided her down backroads to avoid a highway closure.

    This feature also came in really handy when I did find out she cheated on me. Saved me a lot of time on the grief process.. easy not to miss someone when you know they're a piece of s&*t.

    • Mihir Patkar
      February 11, 2015 at 7:57 pm

      Sorry to hear that, but it's pretty cool that you did use it for the practical purpose for a while and it worked!

  39. dragonmouth
    February 11, 2015 at 6:01 pm

    "Tracking Is Practical!"
    That is the government's attitude. Why are we opposed to corporations, governements or hackers tracking us but think it's OK to track our significant others?! Tracking is tracking no matter how you slice it, dice it, spin it or try to make it more palatable.

    • Mihir Patkar
      February 11, 2015 at 6:53 pm

      Why does everything have to be an extreme perspective? Isn't there room for tracking to be good on an individual or co-opt basis, but not on a public or institutionalized basis? "Tracking is tracking no matter how you slice it" just shuts off any attempt at conversation.

    • dragonmouth
      February 11, 2015 at 7:41 pm

      "Isn’t there room for tracking to be good on an individual or co-opt basis"
      In a word , NO. Why is it that people who were born and grew up in the Free World are so eager to surrender their civil rights?!

      "Good tracking" is an oxymoron. "Good tracking" is the proverbial camel's nose under the tent flap. How can one be for privacy and accept tracking for any reason?! Why don't we skip the posturing, the equivocating, the subterfuges, the rationalizations, the euphemisms and just implant everybody with RFID chips. You can then track all the "terrorists" for the "good of the country." You can track all the pedophiles to "keep our children safe." You can track the children again to "keep them safe." We can track each other "because we want to trust each other more, not less."

      Once you rationalize that it's acceptable to track your spouse because (s)he consented to it, it is then very easy to rationalize thousand other reasons to track your spouse or anybody else on the planet.

      "just shuts off any attempt at conversation."
      As far as I am concerned, on this subject, there can be no conversation.

      Just imagine that instead of having an app installed on your smartphone, you have an old style private investigator following you everywhere you go 24/7/365.

      • Benniboi
        January 25, 2017 at 4:39 pm

        Dragonmouth; perfectly formed and eloquent response highlighting the dangers of this type of surveillance, whether rationalized, consensual or otherwise. In short- I don't believe anyone who thinks that they would use this tool for mutual convenience is being truly sincere. there is no altruism in this act, and as much as one can try to convey how 'wonderful' it is to know when your spouse is coming home for dinner, the platitude is insincere, and the motive unilateral.

        Most will not be able to fathom the true ramifications of this type of behavior. Just because you can do something, doesn't mean you should does it?

    • Mihir Patkar
      February 11, 2015 at 7:56 pm

      "As far as I am concerned, on this subject, there can be no conversation."

      All right.

    • Michael
      February 12, 2015 at 12:47 am

      Mihir, perfect response. If there can be no conversation then that makes it no longer an opinion, but an inability to accept that one's own opinion could be wrong, or that it may only apply to speaker not the public.

      Dragon, anything can be expanded to the ridiculous. My wife and I have Find My Friends on our phones, so what is the point of it if not to be able to see if there's an issue? Frankly, if I wasn't answering my phone, and my wife wanted to check to see if I was somewhere that I couldn't answer, like work, then I wouldn't mind if she saw that I was at the hospital or broken down on the side of the road with a dead cell phone battery. If my car is still there when she checks 15 mins later, she'd likely come to see what's wrong.

      To say that this also makes it acceptable to perform any kind of observation and intrusion jumps the fence to another topic. Just because I'm willing to eat sushi, doesn't mean I'm willing to try sushi from a street vendor in Seattle with no visible means of refrigeration, or hand washing.

    • Mihir Patkar
      February 12, 2015 at 4:14 am

      Thanks Michael. The safety scenario you mentioned above (broken down car / in hospital) is exactly what I think could be a potential benefit of tracking technology, when used on a co-operative basis between spouses.

    • dragonmouth
      February 12, 2015 at 1:01 pm

      "If there can be no conversation then that makes it no longer an opinion, but an inability to accept that one’s own opinion could be wrong, or that it may only apply to speaker not the public."
      There are some subjects on which no conversation is necessary, i.e. freedom of speech, equal rights for all, etc. Is refusing to question whether women and minorities have the same right as white males is "an inability to accept that one’s own opinion could be wrong, or that it may only apply to speaker not the public."?

      While I MAY agree with you on the practicality of the specific use of tracking you mention, I am opposed, on philosophical grounds, to the principle of tracking. We fingerprint our children to assist in tracking them in case of their disappearance. Those fingerprints are not deleted/destroyed upon the child attaining majority, they remain on file with the government forever. Do you think the government should have the fingerprints of all the inhabitants?

  40. Kay Fritz
    February 11, 2015 at 2:05 pm

    While I wouldn´t track my wife, I do track my children. I told them upfront, but I guess they already forgot about it and I don´t do it regular but I just want it activated in case of an emergency.

    • Mihir Patkar
      February 11, 2015 at 5:13 pm

      Has there ever been a case where the tracking has helped you?

    • Kay Fritz
      February 12, 2015 at 5:57 am

      No, I never needed it. I check it before going on holidays to make sure it´s still working, but never actually used it - and I´m very glad I never had to.

    • Mihir Patkar
      February 12, 2015 at 6:06 am

      Ah okay! Thanks for sharing your experiences, Kay, appreciate it :)