March 9, 2009 | by Andrew Kameka
Google Latitude lets cell phone users see where their friends are, but some British politicians think Google’s location service available on Android also raises privacy concerns. They’ve even gone as far as to suggest that Google Latitude should be investigated to make sure it doesn’t violate anyone’s privacy.
UK Member of Parliament Tom Brake was quoted by the Telegraph as saying:
“In Britain, we have a tradition of fighting for our freedoms. With this new system we face a more insidious threat to our liberties…I urge MPs to support this motion and encourage the government to take action to ensure that Latitude does not represent a threat to our privacy. Our freedom to go about our daily business without being constantly monitored could be at stake.”
The fearful team of MP’s against Latitude got back up from a human-rights organization that fears employers could trick or force employees to use the service. Maybe should remind them and MP Brake that:
- Google Latitude is an OPTIONAL service that a user must agree to use on his or her cell phone. Anyone who enables Latitude should be considered mature enough to decide whether they want it or not.
- Some companies (at least U.S. ones) have already required employees to use phones with tracking software. I’m sure UK firms have done the same, so was there an equal uproar for them?
Many of our UK readers didn’t even get Latitude with their RC9 update, so I was surprised to see this backlash from the British government. I’m not familiar with the inner workings of Parliament, but wouldn’t it just be easier to pass a law saying employers cannot force employees to install third-party software on their private phones? (If Latitude is enabled on a company phone, that’s a whole different can of worms).
If “Big Brother” is a concern, carriers already store data about when mobile phones access local cell towers.Police officers, prosecutors, and other government agents routinely use that evidence to track criminals and victims. Why not be upset by that? What about the numerous other tracking tools available on Android and rival mobile phone platforms?