Feeds

UK gov gets twitchy on Google feature creep

Less lassitude on Latitude please

The essential guide to IT transformation

Comment Google was the target of MPs' ire yesterday as four of them signed an Early Day Motion expressing concern about the chocolate factory's latest feature, one that allows willing subjects to be tracked through their phones.

Google's Latitude is a feature of Mobile Maps, and allows one to share one's location with selected friends. Most concerns revolve around the premise that users might be "encouraged" to count their boss amongst those "friends", but the Early Day Motion is more specific in asking that the UK Government "examine the privacy implications of Google Latitude and to take action to ensure that Latitude does not represent a privacy threat".

Device tracking is nothing new; the network operators routinely track handsets, and in Europe they store historical data for a year in case plod wants a peek. Commercial services tied into that capability are also commonplace, under self-regulation that requires regular SMS notifications that tracking is taking place, so it's not clear exactly what the MPs are complaining about.

The problem with Latitude is Google's publicity machine, and the awareness it generates. Mobile-phone users are still, generally, unaware that their location is being tracked and stored by the operator, and few are aware of applications such as Nokia's sports tracker that offer the same capability. So while Google doesn't bring anything technically new to the market, it does bring it with a lot more noise.

Early Day Motions aren't expected to be actually debated by Parliament - they are more of a way of attracting attention to MPs' pet issues. This one competes with a call for St Piran's day to be public holiday in Cornwall, and congratulatory recognition of Sir Bobby Charlton getting the Freedom of Manchester, as well as rather more pressing issues.

But we should be concerned about wider knowledge of tracking technology; once bosses start to exert subtle (or not so subtle) pressure on employees to "voluntarily" sign up to Latitude and share their location, the fear of being observed all day every day becomes real. Latitude does allow users to lie, but keeping up an effective fiction isn't as easy as it sounds, and the next service to be launched might not allow such er, latitude in the truth. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Déjà vu: Virgin Media jacks up broadband prices
Screw copper phone lines, we're UNIQUE, bleats telco
UK fuzz want PINCODES on ALL mobile phones
Met Police calls for mandatory passwords on all new mobes
Netflix swallows yet another bitter pill, inks peering deal with TWC
Net neutrality crusader once again pays up for priority access
New Sprint CEO says he will lower axe on staff – but prices come first
'Very disruptive' new rates to be revealed next week
US TV stations bowl sueball directly at FCC's spectrum mega-sale
Broadcasters upset about coverage and cost as they shift up and down the dials
What's the nature of your emergency, Vodafone?
Oh, you've dialled the wrong number for ad fibs, rules ASA
EE network whacked by 'PDP authentication failure' blunder
Carrier is 'aware' of cockup, working on a fix NOW
ROAD TRIP! An FCC road trip – Leahy demands net neutrality debate across US
You crashed watchdog's site, now time to crash its ears
Google's so smart it's discovered SHARKS HAVE TEETH
Congratulations, world media, for rediscovering submarine cable armour
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
7 Elements of Radically Simple OS Migration
Avoid the typical headaches of OS migration during your next project by learning about 7 elements of radically simple OS migration.
BYOD's dark side: Data protection
An endpoint data protection solution that adds value to the user and the organization so it can protect itself from data loss as well as leverage corporate data.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?