By Colter Hettich, Features Editor
Parents can monitor their children, friends can keep up with friends and suspicious lovers can put their minds to rest with Google’s latest development: Latitude. Latitude, ” a feature in Google Maps for mobile and iGoogle,” allows other Latitude users to track your location.
“You know that Harry Potter map that shows their footprints wherever they go? Well, this is it,” said George Saltsman, director of the Adams Center for Learning and Teaching.
The thought of their every step being tracked and watched sends shivers down some spines, but Google provided each user with the power to approve or deny followers and turn the capability off completely, if desired.
“The main thing I think people need to remember is [Latitude] is an opt-in software,” Saltsman said. “I do know that we’ve been working on applications that allow you to keep some anonymity.”
Latitude does not maintain recorded histories of users’ travels. Google assured the public the new addition “features intuitive privacy controls that make it simple for you to manage who sees information about you . there are also universal privacy settings that allow you to enable automatic location detection, set your location manually, hide your location or sign out of Latitude entirely.”
The software uses all available connections, including Wi-Fi, cell phone towers and GPS satellites, to triangulate a device’s location.
Latitude is nothing new. Less than two weeks after Apple released the iPhone for sale on June 29, Loopt announced the availability of its free tracking application in the Apple App Store.
Latitude and Loopt share enough similarities that it is unclear which will ultimately win the favor of the people. Both allow users to turn off the location-sharing function and approve only those they want to follow their location. The one significant difference is Latitude’s use of Google Maps and its compatibility with Google Data and Google Contacts.
Latitude is not currently available for the iPhone or iPod touch, but www.google.com promises it is “coming soon!”