Open Thread: Is Google Latitude Dangerous?

Google recently released Google Latitude, which is an online application that lets you share your location with online friends:

Of course when any application shares where you are at any given time, people start to feel like Big Brother is looming in the background ready to sneak up on us from behind a giant bush. Some call it a real danger, but is it really? I put this question out to all of you:

Is Google Latitude a danger to anyone who uses it?

My take on things is that people are already doing it anyways, so why not make it easier for those who are interested? Sure, if some stalker got a hold of your location, that could be bad, but that's true for a lot of data... credit card statements, cell phone logs, Twitter... As long as the proper security are put in place, I don't see what all the fuss is about.

8 Comments

  • I have a similar opinion like Nathan on this one. As with every technology: use it wisely. I don’t see any problems if someone likes to share his / her location with a trusted circle of friends. In my opinion it gets dangerous when your mobile is transmitting data without your permission to unknown / unauthenticated receivers. So the privacy of this service needs to be fully controllable by the user. Same thing applies to other services like Brightkite or FireEagle.

    In addition:
    Google Latitude could bring some nice application to the table, once the API is released.

  • I think, if users were given the option of completely removing EVERYTHING that company XYZ has on them, similar to, say, an “unsubscribe” link in newsletters, we’d all be more comfortable with giving companies our information in the first place.

  • Personaly I love using it. Those who have my gmail account and whom I instant message with can see where I am, if I chose to allow them to see that information. even then I can say whether I want them to see by city or within twenty meters. Add to this geographic distance and you see that it really doesn’t matter who has that info.

  • Adam Bennett February 12, 2009 at 9:57 am

    Check out a great article by Matthew Honan in Wired Mag’s latest issue. http://www.wired.com/gadgets/wireless/magazine/17-02/lp_guineapig

    He discusses this very topic and points out (and actually demonstrates) that it is very easy to identify a random person and where they live just by watching them take pictures with their iPhone (all iPhones track pics with GPS data) in a public place. It’s a very interesting and somewhat alarming article. I think the point should be that although this technology exists we should be aware of how to use it effectively and safely, especially for our children who seem to be very adept with technology but also completely unaware of it’s implications (i.e. sexting, facebook, myspace, etc).

    As with any new technology, we should be informed and educate others to it’s advantages and disadvantages so it can be used wisely and safely. With that understanding, this or any new technology can be a wonderful thing.

  • Apart from being completely pointless from healthy social relationships perspective, this service does not pose any additional technical risks per se, only making things already possible for bad guys alot easier. Gmail security have been publicly compromised several times on wide scales and Twitter have been proven not to stick with the most basic security guidelines even. Cellphone tracking have been available in underground for years now, and recently there are public pojects like Harald Welte building open source GSM base station, or http://wiki.thc.org/gsm sniffing project or talks at security conferences on how to locate mobile station without breaking into it or installing any software, but just by using standard SS7 signaling protocol stack and a $1000 equipment. Also, rouge person could be able to impersonate network operator which, by design, has ability to install any software on mobile station, and now even she wouldn’t have to write and setup tracking infrastructure herself. Or just talk into borrowing phone for a minute.

    What is the point of getting wet over such a service. I mean socially. If one don’t have a social life, she’s vulnerable to questionable options for improvement, such as broadcasting all the personal information, or equivalently, walking into nightclub, beehaving promsciously and then getting bitten or raped.

  • Much like GPS in my phone, it’s not something I’ve chosen to participate in for various reasons. On the other hand, given the opportunity to GPS/ google track, my kid I’d probably do it. I’m a hypocrite like that.

    Google is already huge. It is already possible for the federal government to see most people’s computing habits. And I don’t care. Be it generational, overall comfort with technology, or naivete, I don’t have an expectation of privacy. Anywhere. Ever. Not even the bathroom, since I have a husband and a nosy cat. Far less to I expect any privacy on the internet. If someone wants to watch me surf wedding blogs and play scrabble on facebook, they’re welcome to.

  • @Raeann – thank goodness. i’m a facebook scrabble voyeur

  • I think this is a fantastic service. Within 48 hours of enabling, I have discovered that one of my friends is neurotically stalking me. “Having lunch on University, I see.”

    This suggests that I might need to completely cut him off once our friendship ends. Having this foreshadowing means I know who does NOT get a key to water the plants when I go abroad. Fatal Attraction might have been different with Google Latitude.

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