In a world rife with the ability to keep an eye on where we are, with posters that are embedded with cameras that register how many people look at the poster for more than ten seconds and GPS phones that can traced their owners to within a yard or so, why is that that complaints are so few and far between?
Alright, there are the net conspiracies about social networking brands and how they are allegedly linked to information-gathering for the NSA (that’s the USA’s National Security Agency of course, not the UK’s National Sheep Association) but this is not a serious, concerted force; there are people leaping up and down about blind emails and viral marketing, but no complaints have really registered about how technology is monitoring people.
Monitoring is back in focus at the moment, thanks to the launch of Google Latitude, which is based on the Google Maps service. It allows people, through their computers and mobile phones, to keep tabs on their friends and family by pinging out their location to anyone who’s part of the service. Given that this is Google, and that they dominate the tech market, there is some fear as to what latitudes Google will allow themselves with the gathering of information and how they may use the data that such an application gathers.
In light of these concerns, Google have announced that they will not be keeping information on Latitude users who wish to hide their location, but is this the most effective way of managing the potential crisis in confidence for a company whose ideals were once trumpeted as being pure as the driven snow? The PR machine behind Latitude, both on and offline, is to be congratulated on the way it has so effectively quelled any seeds of unrest.
I’m surprised that there hasn’t been greater outrage about Latitude, however; Latitude seems to me to be little more than a covert widget to make Google’s advertising model more effective; one that impinges on the privacy of anyone using it. Added to that, a Latitude-enabled phone could be easily stolen and used against the person the phone belongs to. It’ll be interesting to see if any human rights group make like French lorry drivers and park a protest right in the middle of Google’s information superhighway in the near future.