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Google Android Privacy

New Google Trusted Contacts Service Shares User Location In Real Time (onthewire.io) 89

Reader Trailrunner7 writes: Google has spent a lot of time and money on security over the last few years, developing new technologies and systems to protect users' devices. One of the newer technologies the company has come up with is designed to provide security for users themselves rather than their laptops or phones.

On Monday Google launched a new app for Android called Trusted Contacts that allows users to share their locations and some limited other information with a set of close friends and family members. The system is a two-way road, so a user can actively share her location with her Trusted Contacts, and stop sharing it at her discretion. But, when a problem or potential emergency comes up, one of those contacts can request to get that user's location to see where she is at any moment. The app is designed to give users a way to reassure contacts that they're safe, or request help if there's something wrong.

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New Google Trusted Contacts Service Shares User Location In Real Time

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  • by grub ( 11606 ) <slashdot@grub.net> on Monday December 05, 2016 @12:03PM (#53425233) Homepage Journal

    The real take-away is that Google will also know your location. Wrapping it up in a sheep's skin of user-convenience is their Modus Operandi.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      I don't see how this gives them any more information about you than they don't already have. This just allows you to share the data they're already collecting with friends/family.

      • by geekmux ( 1040042 ) on Monday December 05, 2016 @12:26PM (#53425385)

        I don't see how this gives them any more information about you than they don't already have. This just allows you to share the data they're already collecting with friends/family.

        You can't see how associating telemetry data with individual's friends and family lists provides Google with an additional source of revenue when they go to sell this new-and-improved database to 3rd parties?

        Fucking floors me every time just how blind end users are to the justifications behind a business collecting data or enabling "features".

        • by grub ( 11606 )
          Thank you, you nailed it far more succinctly than I.

          What gets me are the "So? Every other company does it." as if that makes it right. These are the same people that check in on Facebook, leave location metadata on in photos, and run Google Maps in the background because it gives them the warm fuzzies thinking they're helping.
        • They already have you family and friends information too though. They know who you text and who you e-mail, where you go, who else is there, and how long you stay there. At least if you have an android they do. If you have an iPhone, apples knows that information instead of google.

          Google already knows too much... I don't think this will teach them too much more.

          • ...I don't think this will teach them too much more.

            Does your assumption easily dismiss the efforts or justification involved in doing this?

            For-profit businesses don't usually induce effort and create cost because they're bored, and you would have to have an army to convince me that this was done by Google to enhance privacy when they've built an empire by destroying it.

            • New services don't have to pay off directly or immediately. The only value they need to offer Google is to encourage customers to also use their other services, many of which *are* monetised, or they may figure out a way to get more direct value from it later. If neither turns out to be the case, they eventually discontinue it.

              Nobody is required to use this, but I'm having difficulty seeing what new privacy-destroying features it adds. Any company that syncs your contact list already has your friend network

        • I know what information I am giving google and I know what value I get in return. I consider it a fair trade.

          Facebook on the other hand, I don't use any of their apps (all of which want my location) and when I access FB via mobile web, I reply no to the browser prompt that the site wants my location. Facebook doesn't give me anything worth sharing my location...

        • Fucking floors me every time just how blind end users are to the justifications behind a business collecting data or enabling "features".

          Of all the ToS's I've read Rovio.com (then angry birds) was the best and most informative.

          Explaining These games collect your data, then sale it to Flurry.com (at the time Google) who added what they had and sold it to target advertisers.

          So I added Rovio.com, Flurry.com to the HOSTS, opting out of Flurry.com no easy task -at the time this program was required
          https://play.google.com/store/... [google.com] to obtain the number requested.

          I've told many, I've seen none care.

          So you maintain a HOSTS file? That floors me,

        • So don't start the app, and don't enable it on bootup when you don't want it (my Asus phone has built-in software to control startup apps, really helps battery life too), and turn off the telemetry settings in general when not in use.

          Honestly, they've had similar functionality which used to be baked into maps anyhow. I used the former when on long trips down icy highways so that my wife/family could see that I didn't end up in a ditch somewhere. If the cost of such is that Google wants to watch my 8h+ haul

        • provides Google with an additional source of revenue when they go to sell this new-and-improved database to 3rd parties

          Google doesn't sell user data to third parties.

    • And they don't now? How do you think they come up with all that traffic information in Google Maps?
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 05, 2016 @12:32PM (#53425425)

      But they always had this capability. That's the whole point of the Google location services, and why you can't easily swap them out for another implementation.

      You perhaps thought that Google was doing you a favour? Even their public name servers and time servers are just ways to siphon more data from you (name server tells them what sites you visited, while the time server roughly tells them where you live, just in case you thought you were smart for registering your account under the name "Sheik Al Ali Kebab Shop" from Saudi Arabia).

      And they know all about your goat fetish. Trust me, they didn't WANT to know that. But they do.

      (kidding side, Google is evil. Everything they do is geared at collecting data on their users, and selling it to the highest bidder. The do not care.)

      • When I started looking for naked iPhones my google account got dropped.

      • by Altrag ( 195300 )

        selling it to the highest bidder

        So far, as much as anyone knows, that part isn't true. Which isn't to say it will never be true if Google hits a roadblock and needs a quick source of cash, but for the moment it seems like all Google does with your data is feed it into its ad system (and to the government when they're forced to, but that's not generally Google's prerogative and they're among the companies most fiercely fighting government data coercion since it hurts their reputation and therefore their business.)

        I'm not sure how distance

    • by GNious ( 953874 )

      What does this add (from Google's perspective) that Latitude et al didn't already provide them?

      • by grub ( 11606 )
        Linking who you share your location with their habits. Alice went to McDonalds. Bob went to Burger King. Both like fast food, show Bob ads for McDonalds.

        Very elementary example, but they are basically asking the users to confirm that when Alice and Bob are in the same (or a similar) place, it is not a coincidence.
        • by GNious ( 953874 )

          That seems very secondary to simply know that both are at MacD, at the same time, and they are friends - and likely could be derived from chats/google hangouts trivially.

        • You remember Latitude don't you? Latitude was location sharing, then they moved it to Google+ as part of their consolidation effort, to try to get people onto G+ and now they're spinning it back out again.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      The real take-away is that Google will also know your location. Wrapping it up in a sheep's skin of user-convenience is their Modus Operandi.

      It comes with the territory, you have to trust somebody, Google is just about all that's left.

      For their community support Google Earth for one, your ability to make money from youtube, Android, just lots. I don't mind sharing my searches, and the little I supply. I don't log into Google just to search or view youtube, there is a limit.

      As for this buddy locater it comes across as a good thing bad thing, both sides debatable.

  • Hey Google! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jenningsthecat ( 1525947 ) on Monday December 05, 2016 @12:25PM (#53425377)

    Can I share trusted info with "close friends and family members" without sharing it with YOU? No? That's what I thought.

    No thanks. I'm not interested in volunteering still more data about myself to add to the already humongous pile you already possess.

    • by ugen ( 93902 )

      That would, actually, be an interesting project.

      • by rot16 ( 4603585 )
        Not really, it already is solved, e.g SSL except for the delayed delivery part. Both machines have private and public keys. The sender encrypts the message using the public key of the recipient. Encrypted message can be stored at unsecure server. Receiver requests the message and decrypts it with it's private key.
    • by Altrag ( 195300 )

      As has been stated all over this thread, Google already has that information. At least as long as you use basically any of their services they do.

      If you don't currently use any Google products then perhaps that question is relevant (though you're almost certainly sharing your information with Microsoft or Apple in that case, so not exactly a step above.) For the rest of the planet, this may be a handy service that doesn't really require giving them anything they don't already have.

      Then again given Google'

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 05, 2016 @12:25PM (#53425379)

    "Why aren't you allowing me to see where you are? Don't you trust me? I thought we were good friends?/We are your parents!" Teaching people that it is socially unacceptable to be untrackable in real life is crossing the line to the dark side, Google.

    • Next comes a GPS fence, an area you're not allowed to leave without triggering an alarm. People will learn just to turn off their phones, so power loss will trigger an alarm too. The benefit of the doubt will be removed and suspicion will be default.

      After that comes the phone that can't be turned off. People will learn to leave their phones behind, so after that comes the phone integrated into the body. At that point it won't even be called a phone any more.

      • by Gr8Apes ( 679165 )
        This technology already all existed in 2005, before phones. It was only a matter of time after GPS and direct internet cellular data were incorporated into phones that the application to integrate into such systems would be written.
    • "Why aren't you allowing me to see where you are? Don't you trust me? I thought we were good friends?/We are your parents!" Teaching people that it is socially unacceptable to be untrackable in real life is crossing the line to the dark side, Google.

      Crossing the line can be summed up in one word; Facebook.

      Let's not pretend Google invented the concept of sharing your entire fucking life as a socially acceptable demand.

    • How is Google teaching anyone that?

  • You can just see thousands of divorce lawyers rejoicing (and petitioning Google to make this the default on all family accounts...wait, do they have family accounts?)

  • Isn't this the same as the Lattitude service they used to offer a few years ago? What's the news?
    • by zdzichu ( 100333 )

      And exactly the same as location sharing in Google Plus right now.
      They love to re-introduce the same stuff over and over again.

      • This is part of the decomm process of Google+ I think, yes, it looks like they're spinning locations out of G+

        They've made no secret about G+ being a failure, but there are a lot of communities that do use G+, a lot exclusively, so it's going to be interesting where they go and how they'll hold up.

  • by mccalli ( 323026 ) on Monday December 05, 2016 @12:47PM (#53425543) Homepage
    That's a lot of words to say Google cloned Find My Friends...
    • Re: Find My Google (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Google released this exact product as "Latitude" two years before Find My Friends came into existence.

      So more accurately, it's a lot of words to say Google is rebranding their retired Latitude project.

      • by mccalli ( 323026 )
        That's fair as well - cheers.
      • by hawky ( 14175 )

        Latitude is sort of built into G+ after they retired latitude. It is pretty much the only reason I use G+
        It looks like they are finally putting some effort into making it more usable.

    • That's a lot of words to say Google cloned Find My Friends...

      But still usable only on Android. I don't love iOS but I love people who use it.

      Try Cell 411 [getcell411.com] instead - it's xplat and has other uses as well.

  • It's called "Find My Friends" on iOS, you can share your location temporarily which is great for when you are travelling with friends. I have it permanently enabled with my brothers, easier than having to phone/message them to find out how far away they are when we meet up.

    Otherwise, while I wouldn't enable it until a relationship becomes serious, my girlfriend (of 3 years now) and I have had it permanently enabled with each other since we moved in together. It's very good for peace of mind and was especi
  • Technically there's no way for them to be sure of where YOU are. However, this does provide a way to know where YOUR PHONE is.

    If your location and your phone's location are the same then it is more accurate than if they are not, in which case you can only track one of them reliably.

  • The best security is not to use deliberate dumb down AI-vendors like Google at all. If you have to use it, do so as anonymously as you can. If you have allowed your brain to go aloof to the point that it is too dysfunctional to do for itself what AI-machine learning technocrats claim to be able to do "so you don't have to think about it", then you're human-ing wrong.
  • by sinij ( 911942 ) on Monday December 05, 2016 @01:29PM (#53425887)
    Incomplete list of potential emergencies:

    1.Your boss wants to know where you are on your sick day
    2. Your jealous spouse wants to know if you are in the office working late
    3. Your parents want to know why you are late for your daily check-in call
    4. Your congregation wants to know if you are checking other parishes
    5. A technology-aware burglar wants to know how long they have to finish loading your stuff into the van
    • This is an opt-in thing. Don't share with burglars, technology-aware or not.
      If my boss asks for a connection I will be looking for a new job asap.

      • by sinij ( 911942 )
        It is nice to be independently wealthy and have an option to stop working.
        It is nice to always be security aware, double check everything, and never add distant relatives to your contact list without first speaking to them in person.
        • by SeaFox ( 739806 )

          You can add them to your contacts list without giving them your location-checking privileges, too.
          If they are distant relatives you're not close to, why do you feel the need to add them to your cell phone?

    • by fuzzyf ( 1129635 )
      5. A tech-aware burglar sets up a cloud service whereistheowner.com for the regular burglar to use :)
      • by sinij ( 911942 )
        Sounds like a great start up idea, I cased a house that should provide us with seed funds.
  • by davidshewitt ( 1552163 ) on Monday December 05, 2016 @01:34PM (#53425923)
    The more immediate threat (at least until 01/20/2017) is to domestic violence victims. Abusers won't need to install special tracking apps on their victim's device. They just need to enable this feature. And before someone comments on the attacker needing physical access to the device, they oftentimes have it in these situations.
    • by Altrag ( 195300 )

      "They don't have to use a special tracking app, they can't use the built-in tracking app instead!"

      I'm not sure that its going to make a whole lot of difference whether they have to spend 10 seconds turning on a built-in feature or 30 seconds waiting for a third party app to download from the Play store.

  • If you're going to lie...

    Google has spent a lot of time and money on security over the last few years, developing new technologies and systems to protect users' devices.

    ... then lie big. (Donald Trump's life coach)

    Any added security that Google has put in is to ensure they have a monopoly on selling you out to the highest bidder.

    • by Altrag ( 195300 )

      That's fine by me. I'd rather one company I know about have the option of selling me out to the highest bidder than any number of hackers I don't know about doing so.

      Big companies like Google may not be completely trustworthy, but they're a zillion times more trustworthy than some random kid from Russia or China who happens to download a script kit.

  • not to have a "smart" phone.

    When I'm on vacation I don't want people to know where I'm at because the point of vacation is to get away from them. I'll call you when I'm at my next destination and only then will you know where I'm at.

    A dumb flip phone. One of the greatest technological gifts of our times.

    • by Altrag ( 195300 )

      I'm not sure I follow this logic. If you have a dumb flip phone, they can still call you. And power buttons work just as well on smart phones so I'm assuming you're not turning off your flip phone.

      Unless you're worried that they'll actually stalk you to your physical location, I'm not sure how there's any difference in that respect. And even then, turning off location services is still an option for now. And even when its not, you'll almost certainly still have the option of not sharing your location wi

  • ... will Google be making with this?

  • being watched by your parents in near real time. I'm a pretty lazy parent (single father for a variety of reasons, none of them good) so I wasn't very protective. The upshot to this is my kid doesn't have a lot to rebel against besides her old man's crap job. So instead of wasting her time rebelling against them 'man' she's focused on studying so as to avoid the mistakes I made, most of which she can see the results of through observation rather than by me hammering them into her skull.
  • ...they already had this functionality built into an existing app - G+ I think. This just makes it easier to manage...finding the setting in the existing app is always a PITA and it's not easy to manage at all. So yeah, it'd be great to have this better supported.
  • I'd actually be willing to pay money to Google to use their services if they wouldn't gather any data from me.
    How you'd guarantee they're not keeping it anyway I don't know, but if they offered it and somehow you could be reasonably sure they aren't actually storing anything I'd pay.
  • GPS Family Locator (GPS Tracker) [google.com]

    My new girlfriend(!) and I have hooked ourselves up to this. It's moderately useful in that I get a ding when she leaves work or arrives here, or if I check I can see how far away she is -- 5 minutes or 35. It'll also ding on entering/exiting selected places as well.

    Purchasing it *WILL* track history, so I can see exactly where her phone has been for the last month. And vice versa. (And so can the company. And Google. And the cell company. And the shadow PI follo

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