This past week, Google introduced a snazzy new application for smartphones. It’s called Google Latitude and it’s a bit like a location-based Twitter. It uses the GPS in your blackberry so you can know where your friends are and they can track you, too. In an age when more and more people are voluntarily putting personal information online, this takes it a next step by creating a record of where you are at almost all times.
Google touts the privacy settings, so you can adjust who can see where you are and when. The introductory video (below) has some good uses for it, such as having an assurance that your parents made it home from the airport during a storm.
There’s no doubt it’s cool and I’m sure the Facebook and Twitter fans will pick it up, but it’s another example of how much pesonal information is being amassed in Google’s massive databanks. Though we leave a massive digital data trail in our day-to-day lives, the big risk is assembling more of it in one place where it can be analyzed or retrieved later. Though you may decide to be hidden to your friends, as long as the thing is on, Google knows where you are and is undoubtedly logging it. To be fair, your phone company knows where you are at all times if you have smartphone, but adding your location to the mix of data Google knows about you has significant privacy implications. It would be handy information for the police and for lawyers in many cases. (How fast were you driving just before the accident?)
How much information are you giving to Google and how much is too much?