New Google app tracks people real-time

February 4, 2009 10:43:43 AM PST
Some call it the next step in social networking but others call it a dangerous move that could erode privacy. Google calls it Latitude and it allows you track people via cell phone signal.

The new program being launched Wednesday allows you to track people across the U.S. and in 26 other countries.

If you download Google's new Latitude application feature onto your cell phone, your friends can find out in real-time where you are, exactly what street you are on and details like the fact that you are standing next to a coffee shop.

Mapping out the whereabouts of your friends and loved ones can perhaps seem a bit creepy to some. But, to others it is a good way to stay in touch.

Google calls it "adding social flavor" to its existing maps service.

The application is free and once it is downloaded onto a mobile phone, wireless device or pc, it applies location-based technology to track users' movements.

It then shares the person's location, status and photo on a map for friends and family to see where you are. And, if the person is on the move, Latitude updates their location every few minutes.

While some may want more privacy than that, others say it could be a good safety feature.

"I would use it. I think it's especially important for the kids, for the parents to know where their kids are at. I think it'd be good," says Mark Otis of San Jose.

David Macchi, another San Jose resident says, "I think there is some issue with the privacy. A question from me to you is if you turn it off, is it simply turned off? If you feel like you don't want to have that privacy issue, I think that could easily resolve itself."

To avoid a big backlash on privacy Google added easy-to-change settings. Users have to manually turn on the tracking software. They can also turn it off or limit access to certain people.

Google also says it will not save any information about a user's movements. Only your last location is stored.

As for the accuracy, the application relies on cell phone towers, Wi-Fi service or GPS. So, it could be as good as placing you within a few yards or it could be off by several miles.