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google latitude privacyThis week we’ve already explored a few unique and interesting ways to use Google Latitude 5 Uses For Google Latitude You Might Not Have Considered 5 Uses For Google Latitude You Might Not Have Considered Google Latitude is a location-tracking app from the king of search engines that keeps track of your whereabouts, with the option of sharing with certain people. Whilst there are obvious considerations to make before sharing... Read More , the location tracking arm of Google Maps. With Latitude enabled How to Trace a Mobile Phone Location With Google Latitude How to Trace a Mobile Phone Location With Google Latitude Read More and a few friends connected to your account you can share your location with whomever you choose from a smartphone or PC.

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 privacy

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.

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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.

google latitude privacy concerns

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.

google latitude privacy concerns

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 PlayStation Network Hacked, Personal Information Compromised [News] PlayStation Network Hacked, Personal Information Compromised [News] If you’re one of the 77 million registered users on Sony's PlayStation Network, your personal and confidential information may have been compromised during a security breach. According to Sony, they discovered an intrusion, and shut... Read More – it’s a tough lesson to learn (twice Sony Falls Prey To Hackers - Again [News] Sony Falls Prey To Hackers - Again [News] It's been a tough week for Sony. As if it wasn't bad enough that the Playstation Network was hacked last week, Sony Online Entertainment users have fallen prey to a similar attack. The personal information... Read More ).

Googlephobes Beware

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.

google latitude privacy

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.

Conclusion

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.

Image Credits: Dashboard, Server Room

  1. Apocalypso Facto
    May 31, 2011 at 8:00 pm

    I use my data connection on and off, and only switching my GPS every now and then to check-in at Foursquare. Guess that makes me less "trackable" but I wouldn't bet my ass on it...

  2. Anonymous
    May 26, 2011 at 10:12 am

    Wow... This is a really thought-provoking post. I actually find Latitude a bit scary myself. 

    I wish there was some way to  permanently  disable it, so I wouldn't switch it on every time I run the Latitude app on my phone by mistake.

    Right now, it seems like it's enough to just run the app and BAM, my location is broadcast to Google. :

    • Please do not add me
      May 26, 2011 at 5:04 pm

      Last year Latitude was entirely opt in. People manually had to select "Join Latitude" in the Latitude app. 

  3. Cell Travis
    May 26, 2011 at 5:21 am

    Google Latitude is a powerful, useful service in the right hands. However, there are always alternatives to it based on the level of tracking, interactivity or similarity we're looking for. Some of these include Localscope, Gowalla, BuddyWay and Loopt.

  4. Belkira
    May 26, 2011 at 2:59 am

    My dad has been thinking he has been having mini strokes. I use latitude to check on him from time to time just to make sure he hasn't had one while driving....

  5. Justin Hanger
    May 26, 2011 at 12:54 am

    Always was a little weary about using Latitude. But recently found an app called Glympse which is like Latitude but allows you to send your location to only specified people for a specified amount of time. Great app with the benefits of Latitude without the risks involved.

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