So I took a look at Google Maps' latest feature called "My Location". Works OK on some device. I wouldn't say it's as good as Navizon, but it's not too bad for a start.
What intrigued me however is the privacy aspect of this whole thing and the way the collect the cell towers information. According to Steve Lee, Google Maps Mobile's project manager who spoke to CNet: "We're creating a database of cell tower locations and that database is
built from people using Google Maps for Mobile," Lee said.
OK, fine. So I guess it has been logging the cell towers' positions when I was using Google Maps on my Nokia N95 which has a built-in GPS. I wish I could have known that Google Maps was collecting information on my whereabouts, but fine...
What gets more interesting is when you look at the FAQ dealing with the privacy aspect of this application:
"This location information is also only in our system when a user has opted-in to the My Location (beta) service".
Wait a minute!! I did not opt-in to anything when they were collecting the cell towers on my N95. Not only Google didn't tell the user that it was collecting data in the background, but I looked closely in the previous versions and there was no way to turn this thing off and prevent Google Maps from sending your location to Google's servers.
Hmm... I say spyware.
I'm sure that Google took the time to add in the terms that they "might be collecting information" which would make it legal. Legal... but definitely not ethical.
Update: Google Maps finds Malc right in his house... and he lives in the countryside nowhere near a cell tower. Yet another evidence that Google Maps is logging the users' GPS position in the background. Apparently you can now prevent it from doing sending the radio info along with your location but that was not the case in previous versions...
Update2: Did I say "Legal but not ethical"? Well, it turns out that even the legal part is in question now according to this person who posted a comment on this New York Times article (check posts number 54, 56 and 58).