Seriously—do you know where your friends are right now? Do you want to know? Because with Google’s new Latitude mobile app, you can access the GPS information in your participating friends’ phones. And lest you think Google is making it hard for you to keep tabs on your friends’ every move, they’re incorporating a boat load of other popular products:
- Gadget on iGoogle (Latitude gadget for your personalized homepage)
- Text messaging (SMS) through Latitude
- IMing with Google Talk and Latitude
- Emailing with Gmail and Latitude
- Updating your Gmail/Gtalk status message on the go with Latitude
- Uploading new profile photos on the go with Latitude (we have profile photos?)
If Google’s not trying to become a slightly-creepier version of Facebook/Twitter, they’re certainly fooled me. Fortunately, Google has had enough brushes with privacy watchdogs (and/or hearing me whine about how every single person I’ve ever emailed isn’t actually my “friend”) that they came prepared for this one:
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.
I will say this: good on Google for thinking about many aspects of privacy, making sure to make this all opt-in, and giving users a high level of control, all implemented before launch.
My favorite option, though, is the one to download Latitude for your desktop.
Will you be using Latitude?