The company plans to launch software called Latitude on Wednesday that lets mobile phone users share their location with close contacts. Google hopes it will help people find each other while out and about and to keep track of loved ones.
"What Google Latitude does is allow you to share that location with friends and family members, and likewise be able to see friends and family members' locations," said Steve Lee, product manager for Google Latitude. For example, a girlfriend could use it to see if her boyfriend has arrived at a restaurant and, if not, how far away he is.
To protect privacy, Google specifically requires people to sign up for the service. People can share their precise location, the city they're in, or nothing at all.
"What we found in testing is that the most common scenario is a symmetrical arrangement, where both people are sharing with each other," Lee said.