The Issue:

“FamilyMap” allows someone with an AT&T phone to use either a computer or other smartphone to get exact location data for the phone of a family member. AT&T sends a text message to the person being tracked, and the company’s privacy policy says the history of locations is only kept for seven days.


FamilyMap is intended for family members to track each other. In spite of the good intentions, however, FamilyMap raises a number of privacy concerns. AT&T collects personal information – names, addresses, IP addresses – from its users in addition to the health professionals, schools, and churches you visit. That combination of location and personal information offers rich insight into who you are.

Given this danger, how well does FamilyMap protect its user’s privacy? Not very well. According to the ACLU:

When any user in a Family Plan signs up for FamilyMap, he can request location information on any phone sharing the same plan. The user of the phone being tracked receives only a single text message notifying that user that their phone is being tracked – which could easily be deleted by the tracking party if he or she has access to the tracked phone – as well as “periodic notification via text message that they can be located. These messages are received about once a month.” (A pair of blog posts suggest that even this notice isn’t always received or understood.)

Thus, any member within your Family Plan could track you without your consent. While that offers safety from random strangers outside your Family Plan, it does not protect you from ex-spouses, boyfriends, girlfriends, and others interested in your whereabouts. Recently in Somersworth, N.H., a woman was tracked by her abusive husband via AT&T’s FamilyMap.

For sources, see our References page.

Location Services

Whether well-intentioned or not, FamilyMap raises all sorts of privacy concerns: it can be used just as easily to monitor a partner or even a parent as to keep tabs on a child’s location.