The folks at Google have unveiled their latest application and my own reaction to it has shifted between an initial ‘Wow how cool is that’ to a bit of ‘Gee that might be a bit creepy’. At this point I am still not sure which side of the internal mental debate will win but I thought it worth a debate.
The system is called Latitude and is a system to allow users to keep track of their family and friends. As it is designed you would sign up with the service through Google and connect it with your mobile phone. You could then allow members of your family and your friends to receive updates on their phones or on the Google site to check up on where you are.
On the one hand this is pretty cool. It would allow parents to track kids, husbands and wives to keep in touch, you’d be able to find friends and meet them for lunch, etc.
On the other hand one does have to worry about the security and privacy issues. In theory the system only allows you to get information on someones location if they provide you with permission, but we all know about hackers and security leaks and how these systems are abused.
Imagine an angry ex husband using the system to track down his ex wife or something similar. Of course phones already have GPS systems but they at present would require you to hack into the specific cellular company while now you could go to Google and get locations on anyone signed up.
I’m sure Google has thought of all of this and they are working to make sure the system remains secure. I probably will end up finding this to be a cool application but I would also want to be careful about things first.
At the same time they have also updated their Google Earth application to let you explore the oceans and they are working with NASA to give virtual tours of Mars