Don't look now, but Google is following you

Location tracking tools are everywhere -- like in Google's Chrome 5 browser. But not all of them can be trusted.

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This location tracking stuff has gotten seriously out of hand. You don't even have to leave your house; just sitting at your computer, somebody somewhere really wants to know exactly where you are.

It could be Twitter, Facebook, your iPhone, one of those so-painfully-hip-they-make-me-want-to-puke location-based services like Gowalla or FourSquare, Google, or any one of dozens of other services all dying to know where you are 24/7.

[ See also: Why location privacy is important ]

For example, after logging onto Google the other day, the following message popped up in a green bar running across the top of my iGoogle home page:

"http://lfkq9vbe9u4sg98ip8rfvfOOl7atcn3d.ig.ig.gmodules.com/ wants to track your physical location"

google chrome geolocation

WTF? The "learn more" link next to this mystery URL was no help whatsoever. It brings up this generic explanation about location tracking.

It turns out this is a newly activated function of Google Chrome 5 (the browser I was using) and that ridiculous URL is the home page for iGoogle. In fact, the app in question was probably Google Latitude, which I've got installed on iGoogle. Why not just say that? Well, the answer is more interesting than you might imagine.

I found the following Web page on the Google Chrome support forums, where other users had a similar head-scratching experience. Like me, they were wondering why this strange URL was requesting their location information and why, if the app in question was Google Latitude, it didn't just say that. Like the way Google Maps will identify itself when you click the white circle on the map directly above the little man.

google maps geolocation

A response from "Google Employee" and "Top Contributor" gwilson was quite illuminating:

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