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Google to track mobile users

04 февраля 2009

Google is set to draw scrutiny to the privacy implications of “location-aware” mobile services with the announcement on Wednesday of a service that allows users to track the whereabouts of their friends automatically.

The service, Google Latitude, will take the web search company into the increasingly crowded mobile social-networking business, opening another front in its rivalry with mobile carriers.

Services that take advantage of a user’s location have come to be seen as one of the best ways to unlock the potential of the mobile internet, although they have been slow to take off, due in part to privacy concerns.

By downloading software on to their mobiles, users in 27 countries will be able to broadcast their location to others constantly.

Privacy controls will make it possible for people to select who receives the information, or to go “offline” at any time.

Recipients of the information will be able to track their friends’ whereabouts on a Google map, either from a handset or from a personal computer.

Similar “friend finder” services have been launched by start-ups over the past year, with companies such as Loopt and Brightkite leading the way.

Loopt has signed deals with all the big US mobile operators, which typically charge $4 a month for its service.

Vodafone has also launched a trial version of its own location-aware service, known as Pocket Life.

Like rivals, Google is playing up the “opt-in” nature of its service, which gives people control over their location information. Also, in an echo of a feature on Loopt, Latitude will have an “override” that allows users to enter their location manually, in effect permitting them to lie about their whereabouts.

Google said Latitude would be available on handsets such as some BlackBerry and Symbian models, with a version for the Apple’s iPhone and iPod Touch due soon.

Источник: Financial Times

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