If you thought the Find My iPhone feature in iOS was only useful for recovering your lost or stolen device, think again!
Yesterday a Bay Area woman, Melissa Vasquez, was driving along a cliff in the foothills east of San Jose, CA., when her car veered off the road and down a 500-foot ravine, overturning and trapping her in the vehicle. While the vehicle was equipped with an OnStar system that alerted authorities about the crash, it failed to pinpoint her location, and ended up directing rescue crews away from the scene.
This error resulted in the woman being stranded for about 19 hours, with confused police, fire, and rescue trying to find where she was. It wasn’t until an officer resorted to “good old detective work,” according to CBS News, that they were able to find Vasquez. The officer went to her home where he guessed the passcode to Vasquez’ iPad, and then used the Find My iPhone feature to pinpoint her location. Rescue crews were then directed to the East San Jose foothills where after a short search were able to air-lift Vasquez to a hospital.
The officer who used the iPad did notice one alarming detail when he was able to locate Vasquez’ phone, where it appeared to have very low battery life. While he was able to take screenshots to preserve her location, this does show that Apple’s recent Last Location feature in iOS 8 can be a vital feature to have enabled.
While officers were able to use Find My iPhone to locate Vasquez, keep in mind that this is not the intended use of this service, and for security purposes Apple makes locating your devices only available to you or anyone who knows your Apple ID and passwords. However, you can use several approaches to get around this and, if ever in a similar emergency, allow Find My iPhone to be used to help locate you or someone you love.
- Enable and use Family Sharing in iOS 8, where you can allow family members to see each others’ locations on a map.
- Use Apple’s Find My Friends app, which is useful if you do not want to share all features of Family Sharing.
With these approaches, you should be able to follow and be followed by those who you are close with, and in an emergency such as what happened to Ms. Vasquez, allow them to more quickly find and help you out.
I wonder if Apple might find some way to add a strictly voluntary, opt-in only preference that could say something like “allow emergency medical services to use Find My Friends data” for use in a scenario like this. I know it would represent a massive hole in keeping your location private, so it would have to be deliberately turned on by choice of the user. But surely it would be preferable to the ludicrous ideas about “make Apple create a magical golden key so only the good guys can get backdoor access to all your data because terrorism” — or expecting a police officer to find and guess the passcode for (!) another of your Apple devices.