April 13, 2010
 

Google.can See Me

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See me!
Listening to you I get the music.
Gazing at you I get the heat.

Google*Inc. is testing technology that will find the location of people using its mobile mapping service, even if the phone making the connection isn't equipped with a GPS receiver.

The new tracking feature introduced Wednesday is being touted as an added convenience because it will enable people on the go to skip the task of typing a starting address on a mobile handset's small keys when they turn to Google's maps for guidance.

Using the technology, dubbed "My Location," simply requires pressing zero on a mobile handset equipped with the new software. The sender's location shows up as a blue dot on Google's mobile maps.

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Feel me!
Following you I climb The Mountain (View).
I get excitement at your feet!

The tracking system isn't set up to collect a user's phone number or any other personal information that would reveal a person's identity, said Steve Lee, product manager for Google's mobile maps. As a safeguard, the feature can be turned off at any time by clicking on a link in the help menu.

Those assurances probably will alleviate privacy concerns raised about the new service, analyst Greg Sterling of Sterling Market Intelligence said.

After trying out "My Location" on a BlackBerry device, Sterling predicted people will embrace it. He called it "an incremental improvement but still meaningful."

goog6.png

Touch me!
Right behind you I see the millions.
On you I see the glory.

Unlike GPS, Google's tracking feature works while handsets are indoors. "My Location" also drains less power from a phone's battery than a GPS receiver does.

On the downside, Google's service isn't as precise as GPS. In most instances, Google hopes to get within one-quarter to three miles of a user's location -- close enough to provide helpful "neighborhood-level" information, Lee said.

The database that identifies the location of a mobile phone is still under construction, so the service still sometimes draws a blank. The company expects to fill in the holes as more people use the service, Lee said.

Those assurances probably will alleviate privacy concerns raised about the new service, analyst Greg Sterling of Sterling Market Intelligence said.

After trying out "My Location" on a BlackBerry device, Sterling predicted people will embrace it. He called it "an incremental improvement but still meaningful."

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Heal me!
From you I get opinions.
From you I get the story.

The tracking system's database currently spans more than 20 countries, including United States, much of Europe, Australia, New Zealand, the Russian Federation and Taiwan. It doesn't work in China or Japan.

By knowing more about a mobile phone's location, Google conceivably could make more money displaying ads from nearby businesses hoping to lure in more customers. The Mountain View, Calif.-based company currently doesn't plan to show ads on mobile maps but may in the future, Lee said. *By Michael Liedtke, The Associated Press

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