Is Google Latitude Anticipating Your Travel Plans?

Feb 25, 2009 • 7:52 am | comments (6) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Other Google Topics

Google Latitude Anticipating Locations?Yesterday, my brother-in-law called me and asked me where Google Latitude was showing him as being. I looked at iGoogle and loaded up his profile to see that Google Latitude put him in Florida, at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport to be exact. He told me, he was in Newark Airport, in New Jersey, waiting to board a flight to Florida, to go to that airport.

He asked me if Google uses Gmail data to figure out that he will be in Florida soon. He thought that maybe, Google read his emails and figured out that he will be in Florida at this time. I said, there is no way that this was possible. It must be a bug.

I quickly asked him to go to and read me what he saw. He said, the ISP data come back as being in Newark. At that point, I figured it was likely not the Wifi network reporting back as being in Florida. I still dismissed it as some weird bug and told him not to worry that Google is anticipating where he will be based on his personal emails.

There is no doubt there have been many many reports of Google Latitude showing people at the wrong location. The accuracy of this stuff is not perfect, so it is possible. But still, to show the airport of where he will be in the next few hours, well - that is a bit creepy.

I guess it is possible Google mapped certain ISP locations in the wrong location. Google has reported this bug over and over again and has asked to be notified via the forums if this is a problem, so they can fix those mappings.

Yesterday, Google began working on other Latitude bugs. In a Google Mobile Help thread, Googler, Chris said:

Thank you for all your detailed reports. There is in fact a bug in the background location updates feature that we're currently working on for an upcoming version that includes other several other bug fixes. The intended behavior is exactly what many of you have asked for -- Maps is closed but a small location update process runs in the background that updates based on if you are moving and how fast. I'll describe the known issue below as many of you have noted. Please let me know if you experience any differences:

- Background sharing is not currently working on Windows Mobile phones when closing Maps for mobile and choosing 'Yes' to allow background sharing. This is a known issue and is being fixed for the next release.

- If you leave Maps for mobile open in the background by minimizing it or opening another app, location updates will continue as long as your phone is awake.

But still, what are the chances of Google showing an airport that my brother-in-law will be at in the next few hours, even when he wasn't there yet? Pretty crazy.

Forum discussion at Google Mobile Help.

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02/25/2009 01:24 pm

Google look at your e-mails to serve you relevant advertising in g-mail. Isnt this just the next step? But yes, very creepy to pick up on the other airport. They are building up massive user data, a privacy nightmare.


02/25/2009 02:18 pm

Am I the only one that WANTS Google to have as much information about me as possible? If they could use all of that info to tell me there's another faster/cheaper/better flight and that I could somehow change flights, I'd be a happy camper. Or maybe they could automatically email me a list of hotspots at my destination. I still believe Google can do very good things with this mass of data they have on all of us.

Rob Barham

02/25/2009 03:18 pm

Just recently I was having a skype call with someone and we talked about "double glazing", while we were talking my friend went to a travel website and the Google ad there was for "double glazing". Cooincedence's do happen or ? If I had been using Google Talk then I would have been more suspicious !

KJ Rodgers

02/25/2009 04:26 pm

This does seam scary when you think about what Google said about violating privacy. Something along the lines that it does not exist.

Christopher Osborne

02/25/2009 05:43 pm

I would imagine that a tie-in for Google Calendar with Latitude is in the pipeline. Then hey presto, they can broadcast your probable location at a certain point in time.


07/24/2009 08:03 pm

I think that would be something different ... someone access google account unprivileged. I am still wondering about apps we download. Who can guarantee you that they don't collect information about accounts, etc. ...? Also all of the syncing with gmail goes over unencrypted (not 100% sure, but is a big possibility).

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