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Google Opening Location-Sharing Doors

Google Latitude

Earlier this month, Google announced Latitude, a tool to “see where your friends are.” To location fans like me, the service itself isn’t that interesting. It’s a watered down version of what others do better. What’s exciting is that Google Latitude is legitimizing a technology fraught with privacy concerns.

Most people, even those usually in the ravenous early adopter crowd, cringe at the idea of sharing their location. There was more than a touch of “I don’t want people to know where I am all the time” in Wired’s recent geo coverage. Reactions to Latitude were similar. PC World gave three reasons not to use Latitude, which all essentially boil down to privacy.

Twitter invades my privacy, tooThese discussions about privacy delight me. They need to happen in order for location-based services to move into the mainstream. By releasing Latitude, Google is fast-tracking the process and putting their weight behind sharing location.

For a comparison, look at how social networking has changed within the last five years. Heck, just look at how it’s changed in the last year or even six months. There was a lot of skepticism a few years ago and there has been a lot of talk about privacy since then. Most importantly, there has been a lot of adoption recently. Location sharing will be the same way once we determine the balance of privacy and utility.

Yes, there are plenty of things I wish were different about Latitude. I wish it had launched with an API. I wish there was some other way to share my data outside of the map. I wish it wasn’t so clunky.

It’s certainly not innovative. Most important to me is what it means for the future of location sharing. There is it blazing a trail.

Category: Geo News

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35 Responses

  1. John says:

    I think Yahoo’s FireEagle project handles location privacy issues really well. Very up front about your ability to control the level of granularity that various sites/application have to your location data.

  2. AdamD says:

    Agreed on FireEagle. It’s great as a platform. Google instead launched a user-facing service. I wish we could combine the two. I want data from Latitude and I’d like FireEagle to have an interface that would drive adoption.

  3. [...] Plus, Shizzow views itself as a platform first and a site second. Shizzow launched with an API, a feature shockingly absent from data-hoarding Latitude. [...]

  4. [...] like Google’s Latitude, this is starting an important conversation about location. Also like Latitude, I really wish the phone carriers included APIs so I can access my own [...]

  5. [...] that Google opened Latitude, their location-sharing site, to provide access to the data. Since I complained that was missing at launch, it’s only fair that I give credit when they make it [...]

  6. [...] Google is putting privacy first. When Latitude launched, I wrote that Google is opening location-sharing doors. A big player supporting location means that conversations about privacy will become more [...]

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Adam DuVanderHi, I'm Adam. I'm writing a book about developing maps on the web. This site is where I'll share the things I find and help you create your own maps. Find out more.

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