Google is making it easier to retrace your steps and to find nearby friends with new beta features in Latitude. The location service already meshed with Google Maps but gets more useful — if you opt in. First up is the new Location History that only you can see. Enabling the feature will log your history so you can view where you’ve been using Latitude. I could see this come in handy if I forgot where a store, restaurant or other venue was that I really enjoyed — with Location History, I wouldn’t have to remember the exact name.
The other piece to this puzzle is Location Alerts, which require Location History to be active. Using your history, Google will establish the places you visit every now and again. When your Latitude friends are nearby, Google can either email or SMS you to let you know that friends are nearby. The reason Google needs to learn your history is so that it doesn’t alert you when you’re at home or work:
“After working on this for a while, we realized it wasn’t as straightforward as sending a notification every time Latitude friends were near each other. Imagine that you’re Latitude friends with your roommate or co-workers. It would get pretty annoying to get a text message every single time you walked in the door at home or pulled into work. To avoid this, we decided to make Location Alerts smarter by requiring that you also enable Location History. Using your past location history, Location Alerts can recognize your regular, routine locations and not create alerts when you’re at places like home or work. Alerts will only be sent to you and any nearby friends when you’re either at an unusual place or at a routine place at an unusual time.”
I foresee two cut-and-dry camps on this. One group will like the service that Google is providing, while the other will feel that the company already has enough personal data. I’m more in the former camp, rather than the latter because I’m generally willing to give up some data for a useful service. In fact, I’ve already enabled both services. But I respect the privacy and opinions of others; I suspect that some of you won’t ever go near this service. Which camp are you in?