Today Google Latitude was launched. It was a matter of time before they entered the location aware social application space. Every application & service they introduce has to do with monetizing the search space. Google Latitude isn’t just a nifty service it’s another way to position advertising inventory of local services in front of their willing users.
Google’s ascension among web users came out with the introduction of Gmail which changed the way in which users interacted with their kludgy Inboxes of yore. They mainstreamed AJAX through cool intuitive user interactions & quickly became the most coveted Beta trial to be a part of (remember the limited invites?). Of course, Google Maps blew us over once more. Now, they’ve harnessed this ever growing Gmail user base into one large hereto un-connected social network by encouraging us to share our status, phone numbers &, today, our location with our contacts.
But are we ready to share our location with a corporate entity & for that matter with the rest of the world? Here’s where the extent of privacy controls plays a large part. Recently I argued why users have to be put in charge of their privacy controls may it be on social networks or via location aware apps like Loopt & now Google Latitude.
1. Google Latitude has somewhat gotten this right – they automatically turn on location sharing rather than leaving it turned off after signing in with a Google account.
2. Another limitation comes from an inherent feature of Gmail – the habit of adding any & all emails to the contact list even if they’re one time recipients. It’s great when you’re using Gmail when it performs a lookup in the To/CC/BCC field but do we need those Citibank customer service emails showing up in our friend’s list in Google Latitude? What if one accidentally sends a sharing request to this unintended recipient? How does one revoke this? After having searched around on the mobile app as well as obvious Google account settings I couldn’t figure out which of my friends had access to my location info. The only way to deselect seemed to be to turn off location sharing altogether.
But I digress, any such limitation can be easily addressed via a software recode. The question really is who’d use this type of service & what for?
- As a device professional I’m concerned that this would drain the battery with a constant data connection that’s streaming GPS data back to the mothership!
- Personally, I don’t see any reason to be sharing my location info on a daily basis. The utility of this service becomes clear when used for plotting a real time route possibly during a hike that gets posted to a Google Maps mashup service.
- It’d also be helpful in case of an emergency to determine the last known whereabouts of a person. But wouldn’t it be better in this case to simply conserve battery life in order to make a 911 call?
What other applications do you think Google Latitude is good for?