The New Google Latitude, More Useful And A Tad Creepy

Latitude can now keep track of where you've been and alert you when friends are nearby.

Google has added new features to its Latitude location mapping and tracking service, allowing users to see where they have been and automatically be alerted (warned?) when friends are nearby.

"One of the most popular ideas was for Latitude to keep track of location history, allowing you (but not your friends) to see where you've been at any point in time. Another popular idea was to notify you when you're near your Latitude friends so you can easily meet up or grab lunch," wrote Google's Chris Lambert in an announcement on the Google Mobile Blog posted late Tuesday.

"Today, we're happy to introduce both Google Location History and Google Location Alerts (beta) to let you do even more with Latitude."

Latitude is a free service, introduced last February, that allows users to selectively reveal their location to friends in real time, offering a tracking capability previously only available in paid applications, typically offered by wireless carriers.

(Here is an in-depth look at Google Latitude, posted shortly after its introduction).

The new features allow users to see where they have been, manage those tracks, and be alerted when friends are nearby. The application "learns" from location tracks so that alerts are not issued for locations where users typically congregate, such as at home or work.

Latitude updates are shown as part of the iGoogle homepage, Google Maps, and the Google app on a variety of wireless devices, specifically not including the iPhone. On that handset, Latitude is available only as a browser application.

On an opt-in basis, users can have their location and picture shown on the maps of other users. A family could, for example, use Latitude to show everyone's location at any given moment.

Locations are provided by the GPS receiver in supported handsets, which also need a multitasking operating system to transmit location updates back to Google's server in the background. On desktops, locations can be entered manually.

The lack of multitasking and, perhaps, opposition from AT&T, which offers a tracking app of its one, are seen as reasons why a Latitude app is not offered for iPhone.

"Unfortunately, since there is no mechanism for applications to run in the background on iPhone (which applies to browser-based web apps as well), we're not able to provide continuous background location updates in the same way that we can for Latitude users on Android, Blackberry, Symbian and Windows Mobile," wrote Google's Mat Balez in a July 23 blog post announcing the feature.

"Nevertheless, your location is updated every time you fire up the app and then continuously updated while the app is running in the foreground."

Google Latitude is attractive for some users and applications and could be the beginning of better location-based search results and other information for Google users. Including advertising, which many will doubtless see as a mixed blessing.

It also has the potential for abuse, however, particularly if location information transmitted to Google were made more widely available without users' consent.

In addition, these changes to Latitude remind us that some features really work only when everybody uses them. For that reason, Google should consider opening Latitude to location fixes from outside Google applications.

David Coursey tweets as @techinciter and can be contacted via his Web site.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Googlegoogle latitudeMicrosoft

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

David Coursey

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Essentials

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?