How to Track Cell Phones With Google
By James T Wood
The global positioning receivers in cell phones allow you to use various methods to track a device. Google allows you to pinpoint your own Android phone with the Android Device Manager tool, or you can share your location information through Google Hangouts. You can also share your commute information through Google Now, as well as use apps from the Google Play store to do even more tracking.
Android Device Manager
If you lose your Android phone or it gets stolen, you can use the Android Device Manager tool to track it down. The online tool can locate your phone and even let you ring it to alert you to its location -- even if it's set to silent or vibrate. You can also remotely wipe your device if it has been stolen and you don't think you can get it back. Note that if your phone has been stolen, don't attempt to apprehend the thief on your own -- alert the authorities and let them handle it.
Hangouts Location Sharing
Google's unified messaging application, Hangouts, has location sharing built right in, so if you want your friends to know where you are, you don't have to type in your address or try to figure out the cross streets -- just tap the location pin next to the emoticon icon in the text entry box to share your location with whomever is in the Hangout with you at the time.
Android-powered phones have a notification app called Google Now that brings up useful and relevant information at the right time, such as letting you know when it's time to leave to get to work on time. When you label both your work and home locations, Google Now can also alert people when you leave work and when you're about to arrive home. From the Google Now screen, tap the three dot icon at the bottom, choose "Settings," select "Accounts & Privacy," and then choose "Commute Sharing." Google Now uses your Google Plus location-sharing settings, so you may be taken to Google Plus to adjust your location-sharing settings in order to make the Google Now commute sharing work.
The Google Play store has many apps you can use to share location information (see Resources). You can use these apps to keep tabs on your children when they go out after school, for example, or have all your corporate phones GPS monitored so you know if your drivers are speeding. Many of these apps give you finer control over GPS phone tracking than is available with the standard suite of Google products.
Security and Privacy
In most jurisdictions it is not legal to track people's movements without their permission or knowledge. Google's products allow the person being tracked to opt in and therefore provide you the necessary permission. You should get permission, however, if you install a third-party tracking application on someone's phone. Do not attempt to track someone's phone without their knowledge and permission.
James T Wood is a teacher, blogger and author. Since 2009 he has published two books and numerous articles, both online and in print. His work experience has spanned the computer world, from sales and support to training and repair. He is also an accomplished public speaker and PowerPoint presenter.