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Google gains a little Latitude

Privacy concerns raised over latest service

Google Maps logo

Search giant Google is introducing a service called Latitude, which will allow people to track the whereabouts of others from mobile devices and via the web.

People can opt-in to the service and allow trusted people such as their partner or friends to see their approximate location, for instance if they’re stuck in traffic or held up due to bad conditions such as snow.

As well as seeing friends’ locations on a map, you can use text messaging, Google Talk or Gmail to update your status message.

Shared data

Privacy experts have expressed concerns that the service is open to abuse. 

Yaman Akdeniz, founder and directory of civil liberties organisation Cyber-rights and Cyber-liberties, said: ‘Users need more education before consenting for their data to be shared. What if your boss is one of your friends and you say you’re ill and you are in the pub!

‘There is a danger that companies want to use it for offering services when we go shopping such as in the film Minority Report. Today, it is Google, tomorrow it will be others, the question is will privacy concerns be taken into consideration.’

Google Latitude is the latest in a number of web and mobile based technologies to track individuals’ data including the controversial Street View within Google Maps. Similarly, Vodafone has shared customers’ data with sat-nav maker Tom-Tom to help it to predict traffic jams.  

Google says it has taken privacy concerns into consideration and that it has ‘built fine-grained privacy controls right into the application. Everything about Latitude is opt-in’.

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