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Google software for tracking mobile users coming to iPhone

Google this morning announced new software that will let mobile phone users share their whereabouts with family or friends, and it's due to turn up on the iPhone shortly.

Dubbed Google Latitude, the technology is actually a new feature of the search giant's Maps software for mobile phones and an iGoogle gadget that can be installed on your computer.

"Once you've opted in to Latitude, you can see the approximate location of your friends and loved ones who have decided to share their location with you," Google said.

"So now you can do things like see if your spouse is stuck in traffic on the way home from work, notice that a buddy is in town for the weekend, or take comfort in knowing that a loved one's flight landed safely, despite bad weather."

The new software also ties into the company's existing fleet of communication services, letting family and friends keep in constant touch through SMS messages, Google Talk, Gmail, or by status message updates. Users can also change their profile photo on the fly.

At the same time, the Mountain View-based firm said it recognizes the sensitivity of location data and has thus built "fine-grained privacy controls" right into the application. Everything about the new Latitude is said to be opt-in, allowing users to not only control exactly who gets to see their location, but also what location they see.

"For instance, let's say you are in Rome. Instead of having your approximate location detected and shared automatically, you can manually set your location for elsewhere — perhaps a visit to Niagara Falls," Google said. "Since you may not want to share the same information with everyone, Latitude lets you change the settings on a friend-by-friend basis. So for each person, you can choose to share your best available location or your city-level location, or you can hide."

Latitude is currently available in 27 countries on the Blackberry, S60, and Windows Mobile operating systems via In the coming days, Google plans to expand the service to its Android-powered handsets. Latitude is also coming to the iPhone "very soon" through the Google Mobile App available for download on the App Store, the company said.

Meanwhile, computer users can visit on their desktop or notebook to install the Latitude iGoogle gadget and share their location right from their computer.