Of course using a service which tracks, records and shares your location comes with its own Google Latitude privacy considerations, most importantly privacy and security. Latitude can be fun, safe and useful but the risks associated with recording your home address, workplace and daily routine must not be underestimated. Here are a couple of things to consider before sharing and recording your location with Google’s flagship location service.
Is It A Little Too Revealing?
Call me old fashioned, but there’s something a little unnerving about sharing your exact location 24/7 with a group of friends. It is not too hard to see how this would potentially backfire on you too.
Say you’re invited out by a (Latitude-enabled) friend, but don’t fancy it and make up a quick excuse about another engagement. You also forget that your smartphone is silently recording your every move for your whole network of friends to see, blowing your cover and revealing where you really are. Not exactly a relationship-destroyer, but maybe a bit awkward the next day.
Google Latitude does allow you to limit the exactitude of your shared location, meaning you could opt to share only your general location. The main problem with this limitation is that many of Latitude’s valid uses rely on accurate location reports. Finding your friends in a crowd, meeting someone for lunch or marking a point on a map is impossible with a general location.
The main thing to remember is not to share your location with just anyone who requests. This is sensitive data, so be careful who can access it.
A Compromised Account & The Consequences
Should your password find its way into the hands of a dishonest and calculating individual, your last week’s worth of location data (not to mention live data, should you be unaware of the intruder) could lead to devastating consequences.
Latitude works out where you live and where you work based on data collected. Even with only a week’s worth of data a potential burglar can tell when you are likely to be out at work, and what time is perfect to come round and break in.
Similarly, should a friend’s account be compromised your location is suddenly being shared with a complete stranger who may or may not be up to no good and this could also have knock on consequences.
Could The Data Ever Be Released?
A court order could in theory see Google required by law to release your known whereabouts and any history they may have stored, should it arise in court. It’s unlikely if you’re trying to avoid being traced that you’ll use a service like Latitude, but it’s likely that many will feel strongly about this kind of information finding its way into any hands but their own.
In addition to this (and despite Google’s notoriously tight-lipped security) it is very unwise to assume all data stored on its servers is 100% secure. Data could be leaked following an attack or human error and as we’ve learned recently from the Sony saga – it’s a tough lesson to learn (twice).
If you’re the sort of person who is concerned about Google’s Internet might, then Latitude probably isn’t going to fill you with confidence. The search giant has confirmed that only the most recent data is stored on the server, but the fact remains that Google’s got the dirt on you.
I don’t personally subscribe to the belief that Google is up to no good with this data, but at the same time there are things to consider before giving any company such specific information about your daily routine, job, travel habits and so on.
This article is not designed to scare you out of using Google Latitude, and with proper care over who you choose to share your location with it can be a fun and useful tool to have. At the same time it’s worth remembering that recording your every move has potential knock-on effects, even if only your last week’s worth of data is available.
Have you used Google Latitude? Do any of these Google latitude privacy points concern you? Advise and amaze us in the comments below.