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Geolocation, your privacy & the future of social networking

Exploring the world of location-aware phone apps

Geolocation is the tech buzzword of the year, and could revolutionise the way we socialise and discover new places. We look at just what you need to know before you plunge head first into using the technology.

Google, Facebook and Twitter join the party

With such a burst of interest in geolocation, it's hardly surprising that social-networking giant Facebook and ever-growing Twitter are getting involved.

Last year Twitter introduced its geolocation API, which allows third-party developers to incorporate the feature into their apps.
Many Twitter smartphone clients, such as Twitterrific or Tweetie, nowadays let you attach your current location to your tweets, and so do some of their desktop counterparts.

Twitter has recently introduced the same feature on its website. Using geolocation from Twitter.com is not as seamless as with services like Foursquare or Brightkite.

First, you have to opt in to the feature, and currently it works only with Mozilla's Firefox browser.

The Twitter service lacks check-in features and offers no incentives, such as badges or points, when you share your location.
Right now, the only way to view the location information attached to a tweet is via a Google Maps overlay; but you can use Twitter's advanced search mode to search for tweets from around a certain location, such as a city.

Facebook is expected to make geolocation features available to its 400 million-plus users sometime in April, though details of the implementation remain undisclosed.

Given that more than 100 million Facebook users update their status from mobile phones, however, the potential popularity of geolocation on that network is huge.

Google hasn't been idle, either. In February, the search giant introduced a new geolocation and social networking tool called Google Buzz.

Buzz resides within your Gmail app (under a new tab) and allows you to share status updates, images, and videos with other Buzz users.

Google Buzz is also available for use on Android phones, as well as on the iPhone, via a web-based application.

The mobile version lets you post (or dictate) real-time geotagged updates to your Google Buzz feed that show up on a new version of Google's mobile maps.

The maps also show the location-sensitive updates of other Buzz users in the area.

For its part, Nokia offers a geolocation service through the Ovi Lifecast widget on its N97 and N97 smartphone models. (Rumour has it that Apple will integrate the app in a future version of the iPhone).

Even the Mozilla Firefox browser can tell websites where you are located, so you can find more-relevant information.

Google has also integrated location sharing in the latest version of its Chrome web browser.

Chrome's feature uses the World Geodetic System (WGS 84) navigation system, which is the reference coordinate system that the Global Positioning System (GPS) uses.

NEXT PAGE: Geolocation and your privacy

  1. How it works, the apps you need and how your privacy will be affected
  2. The first wave of apps
  3. Google, Facebook and Twitter join the party
  4. Geolocation and your privacy

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