Google announced today their new application called Google Latitude that allows tracking of locations via cellphone using GPS. Techmeme today was abuzz about this. VentureBeat added that Google is getting ahead in the social networking game (and I agree). All Things Digital posted with a test run where the blogger (Katherine Boehret ) "stalked her sister, boyfriend and boss".
I responded @techmama "Google Latitude not teen's nightmare. I say parents new tool ( At library? – no you're at mall).."
At that point, I decided it was time to post.
also an iGoogle gadget on your computer. Once you've opted in to
Latitude, you can see the approximate location of your friends and
loved ones who have decided to share their location with you."
Continuing on in the post, it mentions the privacy issue:
built fine-grained privacy controls right into the application.
Everything about Latitude is opt-in. You not only control exactly who
gets to see your location, but you also decide the location that they
The good news is that the service is completely "opt-in" and can be disabled at any time. Here is the video about Google Latitude privacy (IMPORTANT FOR PARENTS especially to share with teens to ensure they UNDERSTAND the privacy settings):
So looking back on the Twitter conversation, yes – it may be teenager's who lie to their parents worse nightmare. For example, if a parent set up Latitude PRIVACY settings to only allow parents to track their teen's cellphone – then if their teenager said they are at the library studying when really they are at the mall shopping – they would be caught.
On the cool side, isn't some of being a teenager sneaking off with friends? On the non-cool side – maybe it is easier to be honest with parents to show responsibility (which teens need to have a phone in the first place). On the other hand, it may not be appropriate for parents to be online all day tracking where their teens are. Also, teenagers could always work around or disable the settings.
Well then, what is the middle ground?
My suggestion for any parent whose teen has a cell phone is to SPEND THE TIME TO UNDERSTAND GOOGLE LATITUDE'S PRIVACY SETTINGS.
If parent's don't discuss the privacy issue, then teens with a cellphone at some point will learn about Latitude from their friends. It is better that the teens learn about Latitude from their parents, who explain that you CAN'T SHARE YOUR LOCATION WITH ANYONE. If they want to share their location with a friend, parents should help set up an approved list.
Now the caveat is that you must have a Google email account to sign up for the service, and to have a Google account the terms of service are "You may not use the Services and may not accept the
Terms if (a) you are not of legal age to form a binding contract with
Google,….". So anyone without a Google Account can't sign up for the service, and anyone with an account has to be of legal age to accept the terms. CNET's Surveill@nce St@te blog posted that the legal age to accept contracts is "18", but that for jurisdiction purposes that age can range from 13 to 18 in different states.
My son is not 13 yet, so I have some time to think this over….