Attitude about Latitude

I’m a techie at heart. And there are few things that interest a techie more than the shiny new things. This week’s shiny new thing of course is Google Latitude. The basic idea is that your location can now be shown on Google Maps through geolocating your IP address or smart phone and shared with your friends. One initial response to this release has been the concerns about privacy. On Wednesday evening’s ABC News, John Berman reported on the “privacy paradox going mobile”, raising the possibility that “there are times when you don’t want parents or bosses knowing where you are, in the middle of the day, when you’re supposed to be writing a story” as he walks into a movie theater. Mr. Berman does go on to describe the controls that Google has put in to restrict who can see your location and to what accuracy. To me, it all goes back to the core struggle in social networking, which is how much information do you want to give to your network of friends, and how close-knit do you keep that network. Some things that Latitude is not going to let someone do, if Google keeps to their statement about sensitivity of location data:

  1. Display where you have been, only where you are right now.
  2. Display where you are to anyone that you have not previously expressly stated you wanted to give that information to.

How this is going to benefit the social networking world, in a way is yet to be seen. Currently I have my location shared with one friend, who is 200 miles away in New York City. And if my boss wanted to know where I was at, he probably wouldn’t look on Latitude to see where my smartphone was located, he would just call me on it. I hope it is something more useful than helping me find friends close to me that want to grab lunch or a latte, which seems to be the main benefit to a similar application for the iPhone called loopt. Jordan McCollum’s “Stalk Your Friends with Google’s Latitude” asks the question, “Will you be using Latitude?” But I think the more interesting question is what will you be using it for?

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