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Google Quietly Kills Their Creepy Latitude Location Alerts Feature

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Back in February, we noted a sort of creepy feature of Google Latitude that was annoying some users: Location Alerts. The beta feature actually launched alongside the Location History feature the previous November, but it didn’t get a lot of attention at the time. Then people started getting emails notifying them where their friends were — without asking for such emails. Yeah, a little creepy. So it shouldn’t be too surprising to hear that Google has quietly killed the feature.

The only place Google noted this is on this page on their support site. As they write:

The experimental Location Alerts (beta) app was retired in December, 2010. Retiring features is always a tough decision, but part of building experimental features is picking the best ones on which to focus. Rest assured, we’re continuing to develop apps such as Location History as well as the Latitude API to enable the developer community to create even more ways for you to use Latitude.

While it may have sounded like a good idea on paper, the execution of the feature was bizarre. You would get emails notifying you where your friends were if they opted to use the feature. That lead to users getting weird emails like this:

Subject: Location Alert: Peter XXXX was nearby!

Google Location Alert

Peter XXXXX (XXXXXX@gmail.com) was within 800 meters of you in San Francisco, CA at 7:15 PM. Check Google Latitude to see where Peter is now.

It’s not quite: “Peter is looking in your window RIGHT NOW”, but it’s not that far off either. There was a way to stop getting these alerts, but it was a really weird feature to make opt-out.

It was also a bit weird because they would only send the alerts when your friend was somewhere they’re not normally at. There are at least a dozen scenarios where that could be troublesome.

Google recently released a Latitude iPhone app, and says the service now has 9 million active users — which we find a little suspect, but the service is deeply integrated into Android.

[thanks Dan]

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