Global Watchdogs Attack Google's Latitude

Dennis Faas's picture

Google recently released a location-aware mobile application (Google Latitude) allowing the friends and family of a mobile phone user to track their location at all times. Not only is the location of the mobile user featured, but the application can also be used to contact them via SMS, Google Talk or Gmail.

Now, Privacy International, a non-profit, British-based organization acting as a watchdog for surveillance invasions by governments and corporations has publicly blasted the application, calling it an "unnecessary danger to the security and privacy of a user". (Source:

Why Broadcast Your Location?

Privacy International began their criticism with a simple, but nonetheless, important question: Why would anyone want to broadcast their location to the world at large?

The "global watchdogs" went on to state that the only people looking to benefit from the service are obsessive partners, jealous friends and malicious stalkers. If Google did offer security features through the application, it is believed that they would be as easy to undermine as it would be to install.

In a response to to these concerns, Google assured readers that security and privacy concerns remained of the utmost importance when employing a service like Latitude.

In other words, the company hid behind the fact that only a mobile user could install the application on their own phone. BlackBerry devices are even equipped with a special message that warns a user that Latitude is active.

However, the warning message appears only once (after activation) and the chance that the phone may fall into the wrong hands is ever-present. If a deceptive individual has control of the mobile phone, they can install Latitude themselves and ignore the initial warning message after the service is active. (Source:

For the time being, Google has not made any comments that would jeopardize the continued existence of the Latitude application. Still, if enough criticisms are raised over the service, the only real question a user would ask prior to purchase would be the same as query posed by Privacy International: why would anyone want to broadcast their location to the world at large?

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