пятница, 6 февраля 2009 г.

Where Are You? Google Lets You Track Friends On Maps

Google has launched a tracking service that lets parents keep an eye on their children - and wives keep tabs on their husbands - round the clock.

The software allows owners of mobile phones or BlackBerry hand-held computers to have their whereabouts followed by family and friends anywhere around the world.

Once the service is activated, the location of a person's phone appears as a blue dot on a map on the screen of whoever is allowed to monitor them.

The Latitude feature is being promoted by Google as a 'fun' way to 'keep tabs on someone special'.

However, it will raise concerns about privacy - and whether it is encouraging a Big Brother culture.

The software is included in the latest version of Google maps for mobiles - software that allows mobile phone owners to browse maps on the go.

'This adds a social flavour to Google maps and makes it more fun,' said Steve Lee, a Google product manager.

Google insisted there was no threat to privacy.

It was up to each user to decide whether to make their location visible to other people - and who could monitor their location. The service was designed to help people keep in touch, a spokesman added.

Once switched on, it plots the user's location by using information from mobile phone towers and global positional systems.

If a phone is equipped with GPS, then it pinpoints the location to within a few yards.

If it isn't, the location is only accurate to hundreds of yards - or in rural areas with few mobile phone masts, several miles. It requires each user to turn on the tracking system, and then choose who they want to share their location with.

People can decide to accept or reject requests from other people to share locations.

Google says the service is not open to abuse.

It is promising not to store any information about its users' movements.

Only the last location picked up by the tracking service will be stored centrally. A Google spokesman said: 'You can choose to hide your location from any person, or just give them a city-wide location.

'You can also type in your location manually.

'That means someone can put in their office, when really they are down the pub.'
Google said it developed the tracking system's privacy settings after holding talks with charities helping the victims of domestic abuse.

There had been fears that violent husbands could insist their wives use the feature to keep track of their movements.

It will initially be available on BlackBerry mobile phones and devices running the Windows Mobile and Symbian S60 operating systems, such as most Nokia phones.

It will be available to iPhone users in the next few weeks and will work abroad in 26 countries, including the United States.

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