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Big Brother, Thy Name Is Google

February 6th, 2009 23:14 pm | by Ed |

Google's got this new toy that they've added to Google Maps called "Latitude". It's a feature that allows you to track people's location in real time.

You sign up for it and then send an invitation to the phones of people you want to keep track of, if they accept, then their position (or more accurately, the position of their phone) is displayed on a map. Google is playing it as a "social flavor" of Google maps, almost like a kind of twitter for maps sorta thing that's supposed to "make it more fun".

It makes use of cell phone tower information, GPS location data or a Wi-Fi connection to decide where the phone is.

In addition to the "more fun" aspect, there's the whole "parent's keeping track of kids" angle as well. I can see where that's going though, kid says to friend, "dude, I gotta go to that party, will you take my phone home with you tonight and stash it where I can pick it up when it's over?"

This leads to obvious ways to avoid scenes like that. Such as a parent gets a phone, sends the invite to it, accepts the invite and then sets all the options so that the phone won't give away the fact that it's now a stool pigeon and then gives it to the kid without saying anything about the tracking thing.

How about companies doing something very much like that and giving "free" phones to employees, calling them promotional items or performance bonuses or something?

All that aside, the biggest problem with it is the privacy aspect. This gives Google the ability to track people's movements, information that can be added to their archiving and profiling of everything and everybody. Naturally Google is "promising" that they're not going to retain any of this information and that only the last location the tracking service picks up will be kept.

Yeah. Right. I'm SO sure of that.

Personally, I wouldn't want this kind of malware anywhere near a phone or computer of mine.

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