Bloomberg reported Monday that privacy advocates are concerned about Google's new geolocation service. The service, which plots users' locations on a map based on their cell phone or other mobile device signals provides "valuable information to investigators and potentially to civil litigants," according to Electronic Frontier Foundation attorney Kevin Bankston. "This type of location information presents a very new sensitive data flow."
Not surpisingly, Google disagrees. Company officials say users can take advantage of the service privacy settings to limit who can see them, and can determine when to turn the service on and off. Moreover, unlike search queries and results, which are archived for as much as three months, location information is kept only for a few minutes at a time, says Google product manager Steve Lee.
As Chris Hoofnagle, a senior fellow at the University of California Berkley Center for Law and Technology, told Bloomberg, "Making the data collection ephemeral makes a very large difference in the privacy calculus."