Google responds to MPs' Latitude complaint

10th Mar 2009 | 15:43

Google responds to MPs' Latitude complaint

Mobile tracker is 'a voluntary service', says Google

Four MPs have tabled an Early Day Motion warning that Google's Latitude represents an 'unnecessary danger' by allowing people to share their location via their phone, but the search giant has quickly responded to the complaint.

In what is the latest in a recent spate of early day motions that name Google, the Latitude application – which people actively sign up for in order to send their position - has attracted concerns from UK MPs.

"In Britain, we have a tradition of fighting for our freedoms. With this new system we face a more insidious threat to our liberties," said the man behind the motion, Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Tom Brake.

Action

"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."

One argument that has been used against Latitude points out that businesses could issue phones with the service installed to track people, and the motion is largely concerned with the misuse of the tracking application.

But, it would actually be illegal for companies to install the tracking software without reasonable cause or to not tell the staff member that it exists.

Google responds

Google' inevitable response is that it is a voluntary service, with a spokesman telling TechRadar: "In developing Google Latitude, protecting the privacy of users while allowing them to share their location with friends and family was a key consideration.

"The service is opt-in and we have included a number of features which allow usersto hide their location from friends, manually set their location, or disable the Latitude feature at any time.

"These privacy controls are intuitive and accessible from multiple points within the application,and location information is only shared with the individuals specified by the user.

"Some people have raised concerns about the possibility of the product being installed onto someone's mobile phone covertly.

"While many of the scenarios that have been described are unlikely, we take this issue seriously. Google Latitude has a safety feature that actively alerts users that the service is running, which addresses this risk."

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