Google Quietly Kills Their Creepy Latitude Location Alerts Feature

via TechCrunch

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 ( 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.

Google Will Rat You Out to the Feds for $25

Google Will Rat You Out to the Feds for

Google receives "tens of thousands" of requests each year from the government to turn over user data, and it complies with any it deems legitimate. But the information comes at a cost: 25 bucks per head.

According to documents obtained by privacy researcher Christopher Soghoian under the Freedom of Information Act, Google charges the Feds $25 per account for surveillance services. (No word on if Google displays targeted ads alongside the data it turns over.) Yahoo charges $29, while Microsoft lets government spooks spy on their users for free. Most domestic wiretapping requests come from the DEA, so it's best not to do your drug-dealing via Gmail.

This is a bargain compared to other types of communications spying. According to Wired, cable provider Comcast charges $1,000 for a month of wiretapping. Still, it's all a lot cheaper than parking a van outside your house.

[Image via Shutterstock] Officially Not A Search Engine, Maybe The Return Of Jeeves? has been fighting an uphill battle for some time.  While other IAC assets have grown (ie., Ask has been struggling.  The algorithm game is over... in fact, you can argue that no one is going to "out Google Google". will become a meta search engine and work to monetize traffic using other unique products including Q&A.  For years now there have been three levels of quality traffic sources:

Tier 1:  Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft
Tier 2:, Looksmart, Lycos, ChaCha and others
Tier 3:  Everyone else

The winners in the space will figure out how to acquire traffic, develop a unique set of relevant products and services and build buzz around them.  Wrap this approach with traffic quality control (ie. Click Forensics) and a solid monetization platform and you can build a company.  Trying to stay in the algoritm game is a losing proposition.  Don't believe me?  Ask the butler...

Ask JeevesFrom Search Engine Roundtable: announced very sad news yesterday, they are letting go 130 hard workers due to a change in their strategy. That change is they will no longer index the web and will focus on being a question and answer engine. They are closing down the Edison, N.J. and Hangzhou, China offices, where their web search teams are based.

Yes, over a hundred people are losing their jobs and it is also sad to see another player fall in the search space - but ultimately, I agree, this is the right move for

Doug at wrote a pretty honest post at the Ask blog about this. I think it is worth a read and I appreciate his honesty.

To me, I am not surprised - I am sad, sad to see so many good people lose their jobs and sad to see a potentially good Google competitor go. But it is the right move. The story headlines found on Techmeme range from IAC's Barry Diller Surrenders to Google, Ends's Search Effort and Gives Up On Search, Hangs Its Hopes On Q&A. But Danny's title was much more soft, To Focus On Q&A Search, End Web Crawling.

The only good thing I can see from this is that Jeeves might come back to the US? As you know, he has been back in the UK for a while now. So maybe he will return to the US, since the strategy is no longer search. I hope so.

I am sad, but like I said, I felt was dead for a long long time now. So it is good for them to move on and focus on things they can do right