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Do you know where your kid is? Check Google's maps

February 05, 2009|Associated Press

With an upgrade to its mobile maps, Google Inc. hopes to prove it can track people on the go as effectively as it searches for information on the Internet.

The software released Wednesday will enable cellphone users to automatically share their whereabouts with family and friends.

The feature, dubbed Latitude, expands on a tool introduced in 2007 that allows mobile phone users to check their own location on a Google map with the press of a button.

"This adds a social flavor to Google Maps and makes it more fun," said Steve Lee, a Google product manager.

It could also raise privacy concerns, but Google is trying to avoid a backlash by requiring each user to manually turn on the tracking software and by making it easy to turn off or limit access to the service.

The software plots a user's location -- marked by a personal picture on Google's map -- by relying on cellphone towers, global positioning systems or a Wi-Fi connection in the United States and 26 other countries. It's up to each user to decide who can monitor their location.

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