Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/04/16/google_latitude/

Google nabs purse snatcher

Sister-tracking app used for good, not evil

By Bill Ray

Posted in Mobile, 16th April 2009 13:30 GMT

Google's Latitude service proved an unwitting aid to police tracing a stolen purse in San Francisco, guiding the boys in blue to the miscreants in moments.

The story comes from local-TV channel CBS-5, and relates the story of one Janina Valiente, who had her bag snatched while waiting for a bus. The woman realised that Google's Latitude service would still be running on her phone and borrowed a passer-by's handset to call her sister. She was able to see the thieves progress to a nearby junction, where police apprehended them still holding the bag and contents.

Latitude enables users to share their location with friends, or sisters, and Janina apparently installed the app as a joke so she could "stalk" her sister in LA, though it turned out to be rather more useful as CBS-5's video re-enactment demonstrates.

Network operators routinely track mobile phones, and store historical location information, but they charge police for this, and the faster the police want the information the more they have to pay, so they'd be very unlikely to bother for a nicked bag. But Google shares the information for free, so enabling the swift recovery of the bag at minimal expense.

Clearly we should all be signing up to Google's Latitude and putting a copper or two in as our friends. That way the police wouldn't have to pay the network operators for tracking information and technically-illiterate thieves would just have to target iPhone owners - who can't leave Latitude running in the background. ®

Bootnote

Thanks to Reg reader Chris Winpenny for the nod.