Friday, February 06, 2009

Microblog: The Insidious Latitude

So the mighty behemoth released "Latitude" - a service that allows you to broadcast your current location to your friends (or the world). It works by using Wi-Fi access points, cell towers or GPS to figure out where you are.

Now, I know the "Big Brother is coming!" paranoid among you have probably already written, called and emailed your Congressperson about what an affront to personal privacy this is, and the other end-of-the-world-is-near folks probably have their panties in a bunch over the "potential" for abuse, stalking, etc.

My view is - it's pretty cool and I can see some uses for it. As with any changing technology - at first there is the FUD factor ("Those horse-less carriages will be the end of civilization I tell you!"), and then the marketplace will decide if it's something they like (iPod) or if it's something that sucks (Zune).

It's not as if this thing is turned on by default on all cell phones without the user's full knowledge and consent. In fact, it's almost annoyingly the other way around. As my friend Dan Tynan points on on his ComputerWorld Culture Clash blog:
You type your cell number into a field on the Google latitude page; it sends you a text message with a download link for the 1.35MB file. Install the app on your phone, click through a bunch of user agreements, and sign into your Google account (or create a new one). You can then choose which friends you want to add to Latitude; they get an email inviting them to do the same thing.
Boy - that sure sounds pretty insidious to me. Making you download it. Then install it. Then give you all those "I agree" buttons to click (along with an explanation of what's what). I mean, hey - YOU might actually have to choose to turn it on. Then choose to invite your friends. Then choose to activate it on the phone. Then choose to allow Google to know your position.

It's a conspiracy, I tell you!

If you don't like it, or you're afraid your privacy will be invaded, or you'll be "stalked" or that it will cause the utter downfall of the human race - don't sign up and install it. Period.

1 comment:

jonathanstark said...

I can see parents requiring teens to install this before borrowing the car keys. I agree that it's hardly insidious considering it's opt in. Plus, Loopt has been offering this exact service for a year or so.

While we're talking about it, mark my words - Google is going to leverage the location-awareness to send targeted SMS advertising to phones based on current location, Minority Report-style.

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