[iDC] Spy on Your Workers with Google Latitude

Lucia Sommer sommerlucia at gmail.com
Sat Feb 7 01:50:16 UTC 2009

Hi Michael,
to my mind the concerns surrounding surveillance in this case aren't limited
to privacy, but extend beyond that to include human rights issues like
workers' rights. Surveillance by ones' employers may not be optional if one
wants to keep the job. Concerns have also been raised about Google's
security safeguards -- quoting:

However, London-based Privacy International says it has identified several
potential methods for covertly tracking the locations of mobile devices
without the knowledge or consent of their users.


For example, the privacy watchdog said enterprises could provide their
workers with phones on which Google Latitude has already been enabled,
allowing the movements of staff members to be tracked by senior management
without their knowledge. Any phone left unattended would be vulnerable to
having Google Latitude installed without the knowledge of the handset's
owner, the group warned. Additionally, phones given as gifts would
potentially be subject to the same privacy violations.

 Masking Movements

The documentation for Google Latitude says users can mask their movements
any time they wish. "You can hide your current location from all friends or
from individual friends at any time," Google said. "When you hide your
location, your friends will not see your photo icon on a map and will not
see a location for you in their list view."

But Privacy International warns that the same masking technology could be
used by others to prevent smartphone users from realizing they are being

"The only means of minimizing this threat might be a regular message sent to
a phone advising that it has been Latitude-enabled," the watchdog said.
"However, according to Google, this function is available only in certain
circumstances" and may only apply to "certain unspecified phone types."
As it stands now, Davies noted, 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," Davies said.




On Fri, Feb 6, 2009 at 8:04 PM, Michael Zimmer <zimmerm at uwm.edu> wrote:

> Rarely am I a Google apologist when it comes to privacy, but they've
> actually done a pretty good job with this one. It is fully opt-in, you can
> fine tune precisely who gets to see your location (and how granular you want
> that location-data to be), and, according to their own privacy help video
> [1], Google doesn't keep a log of all your pings to the system.
> [1] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u9H4xaTspaQ
> --
> Michael Zimmer, PhD
> Assistant Professor, School of Information Studies
> Associate, Center for Information Policy Research
> University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
> e: zimmerm at uwm.edu
> w: www.michaelzimmer.org
> On Feb 5, 2009, at 11:14 AM, Lucia Sommer wrote:
> another one for the normalization-of-surveillance files:
> Spy on Your Workers with Google Latitude
> http://www.pcworld.com/businesscenter/article/158975/spy_on_your_workers_with_google_latitude.html
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Lucia Sommer
60 College Street
Buffalo, NY 14201
(716) 359-3061
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