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Privacy International alarmed by Google Latitude

Yesterday I wrote about the new Google Latitude software for a mobile phone that can monitor your location and transmit this information to friends, family and anyone else you choose. But today Privacy International raised what it called a “fundamental design problem.” What happens, they ask, if someone borrows your phone and activates the Latitude software without telling you? In some cases it appears there is no safeguard to this. Privacy International suggests the possible scenarios:
* An employer provides staff with Latitude-enabled phones on which a reciprocal sharing agreement has been enabled, but does not inform staff of this action or that their movements will be tracked. * A parent gifts a mobile phone to a child without disclosing that the phone has been Latitude-enabled. * A partner, friend or other person gains access to an unattended phone (left on a bar on in the house) and enables Latitude without the other person’s knowledge. * A Latitude-enabled phone is given as a gift. * A phone left unattended, for example with security personnel or a repair shop, is covertly enabled.
Privacy International says Google has created an unnecessary danger to the privacy and security of users. It says Google is aware of the need to create a message alert on Latitude-enabled phones but has chosen to launch the service without universal access to this safeguard. The Director of Privacy International, Simon Davies, said: “Many people will see Latitude as a cool product, but the reality is that Google has yet again failed to deliver strong privacy and security. The company has a long way to go before it can capture the trust of phone users.” “As it stands right now, Latitude could be a gift to stalkers, prying employers, jealous partners and obsessive friends. The dangers to a user’s privacy and security are as limitless as the imagination of those who would abuse this technology.”

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