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Spy On Your Employees With Google Latitude

Google Latitude is the latest social network, and it has a bit of Facebook in it as well as a bit of GPS. Business managers can use Latitude to keep track of their employees -- but should they?
Google Latitude is the latest social network, and it has a bit of Facebook in it as well as a bit of GPS. Business managers can use Latitude to keep track of their employees -- but should they?This week Google unveiled Latitude. It's pretty simple: You sign up and have the option of entering your cell phone number. Then you invite friends to share locations with you. A map shows where your friends are all over the world, and people can share their status, such as, "Eating stew in Prague," "Happy hour in the Financial District," or "Vegas tradeshow, baby!" You know, like Facebook. Latitude then lets you contact your friends through SMS, IM, or a phone call. You can even get directions that lead you to your friends.

So, what's the point? Vic Gundotra, vice president of engineering for the Google mobile team, is pretty frank in a blog post: "You can do things like see if your spouse is stuck in traffic on the way home from work, notice that a buddy is in town for the weekend, or take comfort in knowing that a loved one's flight landed safely, despite bad weather." OK, so you can also see if your spouse is being honest about being stuck in traffic, make note that a buddy is in town but hasn't bothered to call you, or badger your loved one who doesn't notify you right away when his or her flight lands.

To be fair, Latitude allows you to hide your location -- and there's a feature in which you can manually enter where you are -- so anyone who intends to use Latitude for spying purposes would be wise to remember that part.

Does Latitude have a place in business? Yes, said Dan Olds, principal analyst at Gabriel Consulting Group. "Businesses can watch employee movements across the world or inside a particular facility," he said in an article on Computerworld. "It will allow them to quickly dispatch, for example, the closest service person to a customer location. With Latitude, it can be done without taking the time to call service people to find out if the workers actually are where they think they are. The company will automatically know."

I can maybe understand using Latitude for utility workers who need to keep appointments at people's homes or, perhaps, delivery drivers. Maybe.

And Latitude is free, which is a better deal than more business-oriented tracking software, like Xora. But what price does a business pay in morale http://www.bmighty.com/blog/main/archives/2008/01/want_employees.html when it insists on knowing the whereabouts of its employees? Do I really need to justify that I veered off-path to grab a soy mocha on my way back to the office, even though I'm on deadline?

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