Google's Latitude location-based service has come under heavy criticism in the last 24 hours from Privacy groups worldwide. The application allows users to track the approximate location of their friends using GPS or WiFi capabilities built-in their smartphones.
There are concerns that Latitude could be misused by paedophiles, criminals, employers and suspicious partners (ed: but also by concerned parents, social care trusts and the police)
The application, launched yesterday, is capable of functioning on a majority of smartphones, and it can even be downloaded on desktop PCs, and enables users to keep a track of friends who are using Google Maps and GPS applications.
In spite of its apparent benefits, privacy critics asserted that the application will enable suspicious individuals to spy on their partners, and it will also put children at risk against the paedophiles.
Google has upheld the move by saying that its users will have to sign up for the service, and can even decide upon the information their contacts will see.
However, settling raising concerns of privacy advocates, UK’s Information Commissioner Office said that it will be watching over Latitude closely, and its users must be informed about the potential use of their all important information.
Incidentally, authorities in Italy have started prosecuting Google’s employees for privacy violations, and charged them for defamation and ineffective procedures for handling personal information.
Google’s Latitude is already available in 27 countries across the globe and will work with a majority of available handsets.
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Latitude may well prove to be a hit with users but privacy advocates are right to highlight the potential pitfalls of the technology. Obviously this is not the first time that Google is rolling out a feature that is controversial at first but then proves to be a massive hit with its users. Gmail attracted a lot of criticisms at the start, so did Google Street View but these fears proved to be unfounded until now.