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Thursday, February 05, 2009

Google Latitude - Fun, But a Little Creepy

Yesterday, Google announced a new service, "Google Latitude" which is a service that mashes up the GPS location provided by your cell phone with Google Maps to show your location. The idea is that you as well as your friends and family can all subscribe to the service. Then you can be aware of each other's location.

I decided to give it a try and yesterday evening, so I signed up and downloaded the Google Mobile Maps for Blackberry version 3.0.1, which contains the new Latitude feature. It does require a reboot of your device (if you care) and then you select the Latitude feature where you log into your Google Account and then you're publishing your latitude to Google.

Google Latitude GPS Maps Mashup Serivce
The good news is that you are not publishing it publicly (more on that later) -- but it was kind of boring since I had not added any friends or family. I advertised on Facebook that I had Google Latitude installed -- but no other takers or early adopters.

Until this morning. I had a few different people add me throughout the day and we could check our "latitudes". It was pretty fun -- seeing where people were at and it was even more funny the accuracy where our phone GPS devices were reporting us at. In fact, I was apparently sitting on the other side of the freeway at work today according to my latitude.

And I really get how fun this could be -- just a few months ago, we were at Nokia Theater in downtown Los Angeles for a concert and great friend from college was across the street at the Lakers game. The only problem was that neither of us had any idea until we talked about a week later. With something like Google Latitude, we could have discovered that we were both down there.

Plus, there are a ton of different way I can think of using it...

Want to go surfing? See which of your favorite breaks your friends are at.

Visiting a city on business? Maybe you have friends that are there too, and you can hang out.

Parents requiring their kids to leave it on when they go out.

The list goes on and on...

Then this evening, I got a little creeped out by it. I logged onto Google Latitude to check it out as part of the post. Just clicking around a little and I noticed a friend was at the grocery store. I though -- should I really know that? Better yet, do I want to know that? It felt a little voyeuristic. Actually, it was voyeuristic.

Perhaps this is going to take a little getting used to.

The good news is that at least we have some control over it. With Google Latitude you can control a couple of key items that can "increase" privacy if you want. First off, you can stop publishing your location at any time. Then Google Latitude will just show your last location. Alternatively, rather than using the "best location" you can just show what city you are in. That way you are not giving away your exact location.

And lastly, sorry iPhone users -- Google Latitude is not available for the iPhone yet. A visit to the site only reveals a "Coming Soon" logo.

Have you tried Google Latitude? What do you think about it?


Anonymous said...

I just installed Latitude on my Blackberry and was amazed at the accuracy.

After a while I checked it, and it's a couple of miles off (shows me across town.)