February 5, 2009 | by Andrew Kameka
Google Mobile has provided a new tool for paranoid spouses and snoopy friends with the release of Latitude, a new feature that layers the location of selected contacts over Google Maps. Using cell tower data similar to Android’s My Location feature, Latitude keeps tab on family and friends who have the feature enabled on their Android, Blackberry, Symbian S60, or Windows Mobile phone. (Google hopes to release an iPhone version soon). It then pins a photo near a user’s approximate location on a map.
NOTE: Latitude will be available on Android through the RC33 update slated for general release beginning Feb. 5.
This fulfills a popular request from the Google Product Idea page. Friends and family can now quickly discover where someone is without having to call, text, or use the recently decommissioned Google product Dodgeball. Loading up Latitude may reveal that a friend is in the same area of Manhattan or London, which might inspire an invitation to meet for lunch or after-work drinks. Who would have though a cell phone would lead to more face-to-face interaction?
Other key features include:
Privacy – There may be some natural concerns from people who feel Latitude makes them too available. Privacy settings can limit how much information Latitude reveals by hiding location or sharing it with only select contacts.
Status message – Latitude displays short status messages, which can give extra notes on your current activity, plans, and openness to meet or talk.
iGoogle – Latitude can also be used online at www.google.com/latitude or as an iGoogle gadget.