Google Latitude launches; Social networking meets maps

Google Latitude launches; Social networking meets maps

Summary: Just in case you have ever wanted to know your friends' precise movements--every location, every right turn, every trip to Starbucks--Google has launched Latitude, a new feature for Google Maps that runs on your PC and mobile device. Latitude is more evidence that social networking tools will increasingly be layered on top of existing apps.

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Just in case you have ever wanted to know your friends' precise movements--every location, every right turn, every trip to Starbucks--Google has launched Latitude, a new feature for Google Maps that runs on your PC and mobile device. Latitude is more evidence that social networking tools will increasingly be layered on top of existing apps.

The early reviews are good (Techmeme). Google Maps gets social. And more importantly, Google has done the social networking thing on its own terms and from a position of strength (Maps, see Google Mobile blog).

Link Google Maps Latitude up with Twitter and Facebook in some mashup and I'll be able to tell when my friends hit a public bathroom in Grand Central. Great isn't it?

I have to wonder. I sat through an information security conference at Wharton last Friday and was struck by the privacy concerns around social networking. Big point: If you're hometown, birth date and name are all on Facebook for the world to see an intuitive hacker could get guess the first five numbers on your social security number rather easily. What happens when that data is scraped in some algorithm?

Right now Latitude--and other features of its ilk--are nice toys. Increasingly I wonder about potential privacy issues. 

Needless to say Google has addressed those issues:

Latitude is a new feature for Google Maps on your mobile device. It's also an iGoogle gadget on your computer. Once you've opted in to Latitude, you can see the approximate location of your friends and loved ones who have decided to share their location with you. So now you can do things like see if your spouse is stuck in traffic on the way home from work, notice that a buddy is in town for the weekend, or take comfort in knowing that a loved one's flight landed safely, despite bad weather.

And with Latitude, not only can you see your friends' locations on a map, but you can also be in touch directly via SMS, Google Talk, Gmail, or by updating your status message; you can even upload a new profile photo on the fly. It's a fun way to feel close to the people you care about.

Fun aside; we recognize the sensitivity of location data, so we've built fine-grained privacy controls right into the application. Everything about Latitude is opt-in. You not only control exactly who gets to see your location, but you also decide the location that they see. For instance, let's say you are in Rome. Instead of having your approximate location detected and shared automatically, you can manually set your location for elsewhere — perhaps a visit to Niagara Falls. Since you may not want to share the same information with everyone, Latitude lets you change the settings on a friend-by-friend basis. So for each person, you can choose to share your best available location or your city-level location, or you can hide. Everything is under your control and, of course, you can sign out of Latitude at any time.

Those settings are critical. After all I'd rather not let the world know I'm in Rome and my house is unattended for two weeks. That's just me. The folks that worry about this stuff may tinker with Latitude, but shy away (it's going to be a great teenager tracking device in the future). The rest of the folks that Twitter every movement (even bowel once in a while) will find Latitude impressive.

Topics: Google, Hardware, Laptops, Mobility, Networking, Social Enterprise

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25 comments
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  • Google always Stands out by its INNOVATIVE IDEAS

    Google always Stands out by its INNOVATIVE
    IDEAS and Latitude is one star to its cap.

    Well DONE Google.

    Cheers,
    Kathiravan Manoharan
    http://kathyravan.blogspot.com
    http://paisamechanic.blogspot.com
    m.kathirav@...
    • Not innovative at all

      They simply copied the dozen or so iphone apps that already do the same thing. Way to steal someone else's idea. Guess you can't complain about Apple and Microsoft doing now, right?
      josh@...
  • The perfect utility for all those people

    whose first words of a phone call are always, "Where are you?"
    CharlieSpencer
    • hehe

      Yeah, you're right. A lot of cell calls start that way.
      Htalk
  • RE: Google Latitude launches; Social networking meets maps

    Innovative, taking into consideration mobile may not have been taken with owner thereof; now that's ingenuous and may just wet that appetite for further fun that does not end in a dead end going where ITs at without wanting to limit or inhibit the latitude provided a longing for longitude is thus implied.
    i1atlast
  • RE: Google Latitude launches; Social networking meets maps

    Hooray! Yet another way to give Google your information and let them spy on you. Now they have even less work to do because you are telling them where you are. The employees at Google are going to start buying a lot more office toys with all this free time they will have.
    Loverock Davidson
    • I agree...

      Google has proven in the past to be just another data mining company that sells your info to ad companies. I barely trust their search engine and Google Earth, but they remain the only two tools I use from Google. The rest, in my opinion, are just crapware.
      ShadowGIATL
    • Uhh

      What makes you think Google gives a damn about what you're doing?
      Gnack
  • RE: Google Latitude launches; Social networking meets maps

    Based on what I hear around me, its more like: "Where you at." Ugh.
    txscott
  • RE: Google Latitude launches; Social networking meets maps

    Cool toy? I wonder why people are not getting the right message.

    This is to target ads, profile users and to spy on.
    rp36
    • Is It?

      And, you base your claim on what fact? Was it a published statement by Google?
      Isocrates
  • RE: Google Latitude launches; Social networking meets maps

    Google Latitude? Nah!
    harry.n
  • Wake up, its 1984!

    Oh, look there's George Orwell... hmmm, he appears to be in a cemetery somewhere in England. ...and he appears to be rolling around a lot.
    sl;dkjf
    • I wonder why...

      ...you are not more interested in the NSA and Homeland Security listening in to your every phone call and texting, IMing, and eMail message without the need for a search warrant or court approval than Google's advertising interests. I believe those government intrusions into privacy, disinformation, and mind control are what George Orwell seemed most interested.
      Isocrates
  • RE: Google Latitude launches; Social networking meets maps

    stupid or what? soon no privacy at all!!!
    morph000
  • I'm so important!

    God, I must be so important that anyone would want to follow me around and find out that I spend 35% of my day in a chair in the office and another 35% at home.
    dklcheng
  • RE: Google Latitude launches; Social networking meets maps

    You just forget the 'r'... its crap!
    ruirego
  • RE: Google Latitude launches; Social networking meets maps

    Criminals around here have a quaint custom of breaking into people's houses and stealing them blind when they attend funerals because the funeral notices in the newspaper give next of kin information along with time and date of the funeral.

    I can just imagine what they'll be doing with Google Latitude once they learn how to hack it. :(
    talkback2u
  • RE: Google Latitude launches; Social networking meets maps

    Handy now & then, but I won't be on it much. Just like I won't have onstar, no 1 needs to know where I am except my family and they already do.
    Joe1952