Location tracking with iCloud


Oct 23, 2007
Louisville, KY
Location is fairly doable with iCloud.

If you have an iCloud account, you can add it under the Settings -> Mail section, and then switch on "Find My iPhone". It won't interfere with his own iCloud account if he has one, but he will need to set up his own on the phone first before you add yours. If you add yours first, he would not be able to use iCloud backup, photo stream, or document storage (those can only be tied to the "main" account on a phone).

If you don't have an iCloud account, it's free to set up, and you can set it up right from the phone (from the Mail settings, pick Add Account, iCloud, then "Create a free Apple ID"). Just make sure all of the switches are off except "Find My iPhone" when you set it up. Then, you will be able to find the phone's location through the iCloud.com Find My iPhone website.

If you have an iPhone of your own, and you both have iCloud accounts, you can use Find My Friends, and then you can find him from your iPhone. http://www.chriswrites.com/2012/02/keep-track-of-your-kids-with-the-iphone-find-my-friends-app/

In both cases, he will be able to know when you are looking at his location, so it's best to inform him of that ahead of time, lest he go in there and find out himself.

While you can set passcode-locked restrictions that prevent him from turning these things off, he will always be able to find out if it's active by going to the Location Services menu in Settings. Those restrictions would also prevent him from using new apps that depend on his location, so it begins to limit the phone's usefulness.

Messages and internet history are more tricky. Without jailbreaking the phone (a process that exploits a vulnerability in the phone to allow you to install non-approved software), there is no piece of software that you can put on it that lets you view this remotely. You pretty much need physical access to the phone. If he's backing up the phone to the computer, you can sort of dig through it in a roundabout way (with MobileSyncBrowser) to find messages (as of the time of the backup), but for as much overt effort as that takes, you might as well just ask him to hand you the phone periodically so you can look at his messages and Safari history. (for posterity's sake, Safari history is in the Bookmarks menu, accessible from the button at the bottom toolbar that looks like a book, in a folder called History)

But as with everything about computers, everything (including messages and web history) can be deleted from the phone, so in any case, if he wants to, he can get around anything you want to look at.

Aside from anything you can do on the phone itself, there may be things the phone company can do independently of the operating system on the phone. If the phone is on your family plan, they may or may not offer a way to track his cell phone's rough location for an additional charge, or add detailed reports of all text messages to the bills (although this won't include conversations with other people who have iPhones, since those are iMessages and not SMS messages). Call them and ask, if that's something you want to explore.

I don't mean to pry into things that aren't my businesss, but I know someone around graduating age who is in an unpleasant controlling/tracking situation at home, and I advise caution. I would encourage maintaining an open dialog with him about what you want to know about what he does on the phone and why. He might be more receptive and cooperative than if you tried to do it surreptitiously. Especially if you mention something about the roof you put over his head, the fact that you bought his phone, pay for his service (if you do that, that is), and you just plain don't want to see him get into real trouble. Perhaps by the very knowledge that you want to review this stuff periodically, he will use better judgment in the first place and avoid doing things with it that you would disapprove.

Hope I've helped. Best wishes :) feel free to ask if any of this isn't clear, I know I get a little wordy and jargony sometimes.