The problem people have with Google latitude is that they want to remain anonymous. They want to blend in with the crowd. They want to ring in to work claiming to be sick from a hotel down the country. They want to tell their parents they’re just staying in a friends house when they’re heading away for the weekend… People lie and people want to mask their identity, we all do, sometimes we need to do it.
Let’s say i’m in town buying a present for my girlfriend and she calls asking me how i’m getting on with my college work… “Yeah , i’m working away here, head in the books”. She checks my location on latitude and i’m in a shopping center. That means i’m lying and up to no good. Now i’ve gotten myself in to a big mess.
That’s an innocent example of the kind of problems Google Latitude can present. Of course i’m talking about real time tracking and allow people to see my exact location as opposed to the town / city i’m in. There are various levels of privacy.
Aside from those problems, i think allowing people (friends and family) to see where in the world i am is a great idea. It would require a new level of honesty for starters. No more fake sick days. If your boss could track your movements would you call in sick? Not a chance. Sick are we? Why then are you away in a hotel down the country? So from an employers perspective, and law enforcement perspective, Google Latitude is a dream. If employees use it, they have nowhere to hide.
For me though, i can see where i’ve visited, what times and dates, measure distances… if i’m claiming travel expenses or something it could prove to be very useful. Or let’s say i agree to meet up with a friend before a concert. I don’t want to commit to a venue or time because i don’t know what traffic will be like or whether i’m getting a bus or taxi there…
With latitude, i can get directions to that friend, regardless of where they are. That’s incredibly useful. It removes the age old problem of agreeing to meet people at a certain place at a certain time and then not being able to find them because they’re late…
Imagine if you could see where that person is and what their estimated time of arrival will be? Or lets say you’re the late guy… you can see your friend has already gone to the concert. You can just head there too. No need for phone calls or verbal directions you know exactly where they are. That kind of real time social information is extremely useful.
This is the future. Foursquare, Google Latitude, Facebook Places… location based services. Knowing where people are is valuable information. Google and Facebook already make their money from it – location based ads. The more they can ‘pinpoint’ your location, the more useful ads become for you and therefore the more likely you are to buy stuff being advertised.
Overall, i’d say the pros outweigh the cons when it comes to disclosing your location to trusted friends. Advertising your location to strangers isn’t something i’d be comfortable with just yet, but i can see how that could bring benefits too.
For some, they’ll see this as a ridiculous invasion of privacy and potentially very dangerous, but i always question why that’s people’s immediate reaction – why do they not want to move to a more open and transparent world? These are the same people who have facebook accounts and email addresses and use the web daily…
If we were all so concerned about privacy and protecting information, there would be no internet, there would be no facebook, there would be nothing to search for. In order to benefit more from the web, we need to keep creating and providing more information and continuously try to make that information easier to access and monitor.