Privacy concerns arise over Google Latitude

Google has recently been pointed out for some privacy concerns with its Latitude service, according to the BBC. Named Google Latitude, the service allows mobile and Smartphone users to share their location with friends (although there is also a version for PC). The location of a user is determined by the distance to the nearest phone mast, GPS, or the Wi-Fi location, depending on whether the service is being used on a mobile, Smartphone or PC.

The concern lies in how Google Latitude notifies the user of the device that it is sharing the location of the device. The service allows the user to decide how much information to submit, who to, and also allows the user not to share any information at all.

All this sounds fine, but, although it allows the user to control their privacy settings when they are running Google Latitude, what if the user doesn't know they are running it? One example of this would be a company providing its employees with phones, which come with Google Latitude pre-installed, and all setup to share user information with the employer. This is the concern that Privacy International has been raising. As the program doesn't notify the user that it is running (apart from on Blackberry phones), depending on the situation, the user could be completely oblivious to the fact that their location was being broadcasted to whoever the employer set it up to broadcast to.

Currently, notification is a feature only available on the Blackberry version of Google Latitude, so until Google add notifications to the other platforms; it looks like Google will, once again, be in the centre of another privacy concern.

Report a problem with article
Previous Story

Snow Leopard will know your location, via the Internet

Next Story

Don't expect Android's 'Cupcake' update

15 Comments

Commenting is disabled on this article.

To be honest, just seems like the privacy watchdog is having a whine to me.

However, for those who were wondering, the privacy concern is that employers could provide employees with pre-setup phones, running Google Latitude in the background.

Because there is no sign (apart from on Blackberry phones) that Google Latitude is running, the employee could turn their phone on or off, yet still Google Latitude would run in the backgorund, broadcasting their location. It's unlikely circumstances, but still possible.

What kinda crap is this?! It's OPT-IN.....It's OBVIOUS when it's running.

How is there a privacy issue? It even prompts you to accept a privacy agreement. This is crap.

What every single scare mongering article like this fails to point out is that the features are opt-in. If your employer gives you a Latitude-enabled phone, you can be damned sure they'll tell you that the service is installed and running, lest they leave themselves open to a huge lawsuit. In most corporate situations I've been in, Human Resources would soil themselves if this was never mentioned to the end user, as they're specially trained to cover both their own and the corporation's ass at all costs.

If you have your own phone, you'll have the option to turn it on or off, as well as stipulate who gets to be aware of your location. If you don't like the privacy implications of this, don't run it. Simple as that.

I said "the concern" from the Privacy Watchdog. I made no attempt to scaremonger, I was just reporting what the Privacy Watchdog was moaning about.

The example concern they used is no concern at all. If the employer provides the phone the employer has the right to track you with it.

hkgonra said,
The example concern they used is no concern at all. If the employer provides the phone the employer has the right to track you with it.

I have it installed on my Touch Pro and every time I exit Google Maps it asks me I want to keep latitude running in the background. I fail to see how it's a security concern at all lol. It's not like you can currently have the app launch on startup without any UI/notification

hkgonra said,
The example concern they used is no concern at all. If the employer provides the phone the employer has the right to track you with it.

um. No they don't. They have the right to know how you have been using the phone (i.e. authorized usage)...they don't have the right to track you with it.

jjkusaf said,
um. No they don't. They have the right to know how you have been using the phone (i.e. authorized usage)...they don't have the right to track you with it.


#1 If it is the employers phone he has a right to know where it is.

#2 If you are on the employers time he has a right to know where you are.

This is no different than truck drivers and police being tracked by dispatchers which has been going on for years.

I am regulary annoyed with Loopt notifying me that I have it installed. Also, the damn thing sending random pings to random people when I don't even have Loopt on.

The problem I find with the BBC article is that, as it will be read by anybody with any level of knowledge of technology, it would be quite easy for people to assume that by having a mobile phone, your friends can find out where you are. Even though they may say that you have to 'opt-in', they make it sound like you could easily to do accidentally. There is no mention that you have to actually download a program to begin with.

Plus, people who complain that companies could keep eyes on their staff secretly should know that there are a number of different covert programs that will do this in a more intrusive way right now. I can text my phone from any other and retrieve it's location, retrieve every single contact from the sim card, see where it has been for the last x minutes and much more. I've installed it as a theft detection thing. It's actually part of the flashed firmware so a factory reset won't get rid of it and unless you're looking for it, you won't see any sign of it. So the software already exists. Don't hit out at google for releasing something that people might like to use socially. I'm sure people will easily realise the risks.

one thing...some idiot will forget to turn it off and someone finds them..robs,rapes,murders them..and someone will blame google.

some guy will leave his mobil phone at the bowling ally and then go have his affair and his wife will think he's bowling with the boys...lol

Oh Christ.

I'm sure before the latitude feature reaches the corporate market (if at all) they will have the "privacy concerns" ironed out.

Besides that, Latitude doesn't even share exact addresses, only street names.

Being notified every time I launch Google Maps could become quite annoying. I hope there's a way to disable that when they decide to include it.

Ummm, did you not notice the "Google" part of "Google Latitude"? Their privacy concerns only get wider and deeper.

Anyone who thinks their friends need to know their exact location all the time has worse problems than privacy anyway.