Tracking apps offer hope, dread for families in Thousand Oaks shooting

MALIBU, California — Popular apps that let parents and friends track each other in real time offered up the possibility of hope for some and dread for others in the aftermath of a horrific shooting at a Southern Californian bar where 13 people died.

The apps show locations for those who have signed onto them and are popular among groups of friends and also in families, where parents frequently put them on their children’s phones so they know where they are. Friends use them to find each other and keep in touch.

“I used Snap Map to see if my friends were OK,” said Aubrey Stanchak, 20, a junior at Pepperdine University in Malibu. Students at the school often frequent the Borderline Bar and Grill, where the shooting unfolded late Wednesday night.

Stanchak checked to make sure her friends who lived near the shooting were at their houses in the middle of the night, and finding them there gave her comfort.

“Knowing they hadn’t been active on Snapchat and they were in a place and they’d been there for a while made me feel like, ‘OK, they’re settled, nothing’s happened,'” she said.

In the case of the Thousand Oaks shooting, some families were watching the apps with a sense of grim foreboding as their loved ones appeared to still be checked in at the Borderline Bar and Grill, where Thursday morning only bodies remained. 

“The upside is it’s more information than you would otherwise have, which in those situations can be either reassuring or devastating,” said Sierra Filucci, executive editor of parenting content at Common Sense Media, a non-profit that promotes safe technology and media for children.

Adam Housley told the Los Angeles Times that his niece’s Apple Watch and iPhone were showing her location as being on the dance floor at the bar in Thousand Oaks.

“My gut is saying she’s inside the bar, dead,” he told the paper.

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