Alleviating Google Latitude Privacy ConcernsBy: Chris Crum - February 9, 2009
Google’s recently announced Latitude service has sparked a bit of concern among privacy advocates and the generally paranoid. I spoke with a Google Spokesperson about this.
Google Latitude is a feature in Google Maps for mobile and iGoogle that allows you to share your location with your family and friends in real time.
"Concerns have been raised about the possibility of the product being installed onto someone’s mobile phone covertly," the spokesperson told me. "While many of the scenarios that have been described are unlikely, we take this issue seriously and always listen to feedback from our users. We already have a safety feature working on certain mobile devices that actively alerts users that Latitude is running and we are in the process of extending this notification to other mobile platforms supporting Google Latitude, which will be ready in the very near future."
She also told me that Google worked closely with Cindy Southworth of the Safety Net Project at the National Network to End Domestic Violence when they developed all of Latitude’s privacy settings.
"I collaborated closely with Google to ensure that all users control how much information they share and with whom when using Google Latitude. Not only is Latitude an opt-in feature, but Google also implemented a number of privacy settings, such as allowing certain friends to only view your city-level location, having the option to hide from all or specific friends, and providing robust ongoing notice. These settings help ensure that people will be choosing to share their location with friends with full knowledge and consent," says Southworth.
With Google Latitude, you can choose which friends can see your location. You can accept and share your location back, choose the "accept and hide" option, which doesn’t allow them to see you, but allows you to see them if they invited you, or you can simply choose not to accept their invitation.
You can also choose just how much information you wish to share with each friend. You can set different privacy levels for each friend. If you don’t want to share your specific location with somebody, you can select "share only city level location." You can choose the "hide from this friend" option if you don’t want them to see you at all. Or you can always remove friends altogether.
You can always choose what your location is and when you want to share it. You can manually select your location or you can hide from all of your latitude friends so nobody has a clue where you are.
The video above shows you how to adjust your privacy settings, and for more on using these settings, you can check out the Latitude Privacy page.