Google Latitude Knows Where You Are and Knows Where You’ve Been

Do you know where your friends are?

Google Latitude Friends Map

Click for Larger View

If not, Google wants to help you find them. Google has a product called Latitude, an opt-in feature that lets smartphone and laptop users share their location with friends and family and allows them to share their locations in return. Although not pinpoint accurate, Latitude can display your general location based on information from GPS satellites and cell towers. Latitude works on both mobile devices and personal computers.

What Latitude can do?

Once you and your friends have opted in to Latitude, you can see your friends’ Google icon displayed on Google Maps. Clicking on their icon allows you to call, email or IM them, and you can even use the directions feature on Google Maps to help you get to their location.

Google says Latitude works in 27 countries and with many mobile platforms including iGoogle with your computer. Here’s Google list of supported phones:

Google Latitude Supported Phones

Google Latitude is available on the following mobile devices:

  • Android-powered devices with Maps version 3.0+
  • iOS devices (iPhone 3G, 3GS, iPhone 4, iPad, and 3rd/4th generation iPod touch)

Native application:

The Google Latitude app, which you can download from the App Store, will run on the iPhone 3G, 3GS, iPhone 4, iPad, and iPod touch (3rd/4th generation), with iOS 4+. However, background location updating is only supported on the iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, and iPad 3G.

Web application:

The web application runs in the Safari browser on iPhone and iPod touch devices in the Safari browser (Requires iPhone OS version 3.0+). Note that the web application does not support background location reporting.

  • Most color BlackBerry devices
  • Most Windows Mobile 5.0 and above devices. Note: Some Windows Mobile devices don’t support cell-ID location detection.
  • Most Symbian S60 devices
  • Some Sony Ericsson devices. Learn more about specific availability.

Some older versions of these devices cannot support Google Maps for mobile version 3.0 and above and will receive the most recent compatible version without Google Latitude.

How it works:

Let’s say Bob wants to share his location with his girlfriend Jane. He invites her to accept his invitation through his mobile device or computer. Then Jane can accept and share her location back; accept but not share her location; or completely reject poor Bob. If Jane has chosen to share her location with Bob, she can decide whether to share her best available location or simply which city she’s in. Jane could also hide her location to keep ol’ Bob in the dark from time to time, or if Jane breaks up with Bob for her neighbor Richard, then she could just remove Bob from her location list altogether.

In addition to restricting specific people, Latitude will also let you do a blanket location setting for all your contacts. You can choose to let Latitude detect your location automatically, you can also set it manually if you prefer or you can hide your location completely.

Google Latitude Location History Map

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Is Google tracking me?

According to company statements, Google only keeps your most recent shared location on its servers at any time. If you’ve hidden your location, then Google doesn’t hold any information on your locale at all. However, I know for a fact that Google keeps up to 6 months worth of location history of the places you’ve been. To access your Latitude History information, logon to your Google account from your laptop or desktop computer, from the main navigation menu, select More > Even More > Latitude and then select the Location History button. Google starts tracking your location a couple days after you install the application on your smart phone. The images on the right are an example of what your location history looks like. It shows where you’ve been for a 24 hour period. If you want to view another date, simply select the date on the calendar shown on the page. You can even use the satellite view that will take you down to street level, that’s amazing! Your Google account can view only your location history data, in other words, you won’t be able to view the location history of your “Latitude Friends” from YOUR Google account.

Google Latitude Map - History / Satellite View

Click for a Larger Image

While this feature sounds like it could be helpful, and sometimes incredibly annoying, I wonder what this does to the notion of privacy. For example, will federal officials or the police ever try to force Google to relay your location information? Or, what if Google Latitude shows your significant other that you’re somewhere you shouldn’t be when actually you’re a few blocks away? Where you are can also say a lot about you especially when it comes to your free time.

Think of the possibilities, is this giving Google and others to much information? We need to think about what would happen if your whereabouts ended up in the hands of someone with malicious intent. Your privacy and personal information should always be handled with care. Share your information only if you have a good reason too and only to those you trust.

On the lighter side, I found a funny video regarding Google Latitude. Enjoy!

– E. White –



About E. White
Website Developer / IT Support Specialist • Professional Website Designs • Custom WordPress Themes • Flash Banners / Portfolios • Full Web Development Solution Provider Also, Support Windows Based Network Environments. 20 Plus Years of Experience. • Located in Los Angeles / Orange Co, CA

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