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Google Latitude and Tracing Friends

Google Latitude and Tracing Friends

One drawback of using cutting edge hardware technologies and apps is that frequently, when you analyze the potential synergies, it will cause you to break into a cold sweat.

A client of ours was worried that her boyfriend was stalking her.  He would casually walk into restaurants and bars where she was relaxing with friends and co-workers.  While she thought little of it at first — it started to make her feel creepy.  Really creepy.

A similar problem followed another client who was in the high-tech industry.  While he was working on a small acquisition — the competition always seemed to be at his heels.  Even showing up at the office where the acquisition was being discussed.

Welcome to Google Latitude, an application that incorporates Cellular and Wi-Fi Positioning to enhance GPS on cell phones and other handheld devices.  Google Latitude expands upon a host of other applications that are capable of revealing the users location.  For many years 911 operators have used this technology to locate cell phone users, and it is quite accurate.  The applications that make use of these technologies are simply tapping into information generated by your cell phone as it runs the algorithms necessary to select cell towers.  The information your phone is passively generating is sufficient to disclose a very close approximation of your location – and there is no way to turn it off.

Most of the applications you would intentionally install on your mobile phone to build a network of “friends,” along with their location, will require both parties to “friend” each other – much like Facebook (and how secure is that?).  What is unique about these new applications is that they don’t need GPS technology (they can work with GPS disabled).  The information is there – the problem for a stalker is simply to access it.  The easiest way to do this, of course, is to simply ask you to “friend” them – but in any case, it represents another gaping back door for malicious use of “be-friending” applications.

Google is just getting started by integrating this technology with Google Maps.  With Google Latitude, you not only don’t need GPS — it works on almost any mobile device that can access Google Maps.  According to Google, these include all Android devices, iPhone, BlackBerry, Windows Mobile 5.0+, and Symbian.

ET … leave phone home.

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