On Google Latitude and Why I'm Not Going There

Despite my relative blogging paucity of late, I’m hardly shy about putting personal information online. Between Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, and the various other odds and ends of my online life, I’ve shared quite a lot over the years. And given my relatively unique name, it’s quite easy to enter a few search strings and pull up an awful lot of detail about me. But Google Latitude is a bridge too far, even for me.

Here’s a quick rundown on Latitude, if it hasn’t gotten onto your radar screen yet:

This Wednesday, Google launched its much-anticipated location-tracking service, Latitude, which uses the GPS hardware found in smart phones (such as Google Android phones and BlackBerry and Windows Mobile handsets) to pinpoint your position on a map and share that information with your friends.

I’ve always been very clear about the line between personal and private information, and Latitude falls smack into the camp of private, as far as I’m concerned. It’s too much sharing. I’ll happily tell the world what I just ordered at Starbucks, but that doesn’t mean I want to world along for the ride as I walk down the street carrying my coffee.

Perhaps it’s a gender thing, but I find the concept that someone can know exactly where I am at all times to be more than a little scary. My work address is easy to find, but being able to see exactly when or what direction I’m walking in when I leave at night? Sorry, but that’s just not something I want the world to get access to.

And yes, I know that by default Latitude wouldn’t share anything unless I actively made the choice to share it, and yes, I know that simply by having a GPS-enabled phone, the phone company already can track me if they want to. If some government agency forces AT&T to give up my personal data, there’s not a whole hell of a lot I can do about it. But if a person I’ve shared my location with gets their phone stolen, their account hacked, or even decides to sell access to their account, that’s a different story.

I know not everyone feels this way, and they’re perfectly happy checking in on Brightkite or adding everyone in their address book to Latitude. I wish them well. But that’s a party I’m just not joining.

3 thoughts on “On Google Latitude and Why I'm Not Going There”

  1. I agree 100%. My first thought when I read the release from Google was, “Hey, that’s pretty cool.” The more I thought about it however, the more I didn’t really like the idea. A little too Big Brother for me.

  2. Rachael

    The Phone Company has always known where your phone is. Cellular technology initially limited their knowledge to what cell, although the computer system knew what cells you were activating, it won’t work without this knowledge. With modern technology, they can monitor which cells you are activating, relative signal strength and do a fair job of calculating position. A modern 911 center not only knows roughly where you are if you call but can track your phone’s movement from cell to cell.

    It wouldn’t suprise me at all to find out the system has long since been hacked and I don’t think the Feebs would hesitate with a court order if they feel they ‘need to know’.

    There is no privacy.

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