It’s not Big Brother, It’s Google Latitude

Today was Google’s.

Everywhere I turned, the one thing I kept hearing people talking about was the new Google Latitude feature on mobile Google maps and iGoogle gadgets. The service is available in 27 countries and allows users to let others know where in the world they are located. If you choose to opt-in (because that would be the only way Google could ever get away with this) you can use Latitude to find friends and communicate with them via SMS, Google Talk or simply by dialing their phone number.

The feedback, per usual, is both positive and negative. Some were delighted with the news because it shows just how increasingly accessible and open our world is becoming, and others shivered at the thought of being exposed and having their privacy put in jeopardy.

A few days ago I was listening to NPR’s Studio 360 and heard the story of Hasan Elahi who, after suffering the biggest scare of his life when he was arrested at the airport shortly after the attacks of 9/11 and was held in custody as a terrorist suspect, started recording his every move and posting information about his whereabouts on a Web site. Elahi’s decision to publicize his privacy and keep track of himself was motivated by fear and not a willingness to share his life with others – practically a complete deviation from the norm where most people are unwilling to post any personal information online because they are afraid others may be able to trace their steps.

As I have mentioned before, we are entering an era where the traditional definition of privacy is coming into conflict with what is happening with technology and the power of the Web. How do we deal with that? Baby steps? Do we just hit the ground running and correct mistakes along the way?

I signed up for Google Latitude today but I have to tinker with it before I can say anything about what I think about how it works. I will say this though – our lives are getting streamlined and I have no qualms with getting a little outside help to make some aspects of my every day a bit easier.

I am a very private person but I’ve never felt that my integrity or confidential information are under any sort of threat by having an e-mail account, a profile on LinkedIn… this blog…Think about this… how much of what has happended during this recession could have been prevented if we thought differently about privacy… leading to transparency… leading to accountability… leading to a participative society???

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