Monday, February 9, 2009

Google tracking your every move

On Wednesday, Feb. 4, 2009, Google launched Latitude, a location-tracking service that uses GPS hardware found in smart phones to pinpoint your position on a map and share that information with friends.

When The Police wrote the stalker-classic song "Every Breath you Take" they probably weren't thinking that a Google application for your cellphone would make their promise "I'll be watching you" so easy.

But for many young people and technophiles, there's no worry about Big Brother or other nosy eyes -- they want you to know exactly where they are.

Called Latitude, a new Google application allows users to track the physical location of friends and family from their mobile phone or computer. Already, frightened parents and privacy groups are thinking about the safety implications.

The basic technology, called geomapping, has been available for years in other products like Loopt and there's been nary a worry. But once Google touches something, it instantly becomes part of the mainstream.

The way Google promotes Latitude, the new tool certainly has some significant upsides. Already, a number of enthusiasts lay out a multiplicity of benefits for the application.

"I do like the idea of seeing where my friends are: I live in a medium sized town that's (45 kilometres) away from a city ... (so) if I'm killing time in there I'd like to know if any of my friends are around so we could hook up," Alex Martindale, a member of the Facebook group "I am using Google Latitude" told in an email.

"However, I think the most exciting part of Google Latitude is providing location-based services to people's mobile phones: imagine if you looked up train or bus times from your phone, the website could know where you are and instantly provide you with the relevant information."

Latitude can track a person's location down to a few metres by GPS, or to a few kilometres using a cell tower. The person's location can then be broadcasted using the uber-popular Google Maps.