Google lets Gmail give away your location

Google Gmail software now shows the location of email senders.

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Google Gmail software now shows the location of email senders.

"Some time ago I noticed how all mail systems tell you when an email was written, but not where it was sent from," said Marco Bonechi, a Google software engineer, in a blog post.

"Because I love to travel, the first question in many messages I receive is "where are you?" and by the time I answer, I am often somewhere else. So in my 20 per cent time, I wrote an experimental Gmail Labs feature that detects your location and appends the city region and country names to your signature."

Bonechi noted that people can use the new Location in Signature feature by going to the Labs tab in Gmail under Settings and then clicking on Signature Preferences.

"It'll use your public IP address to determine your location, so it may not always be that accurate," he noted.

"For example, if you're at Heathrow airport, IP detection may put you in Germany. If you want more accurate location detection, make sure your browser has a version of [Google] Gears that supports the location module. That way, Gears can make use of wi-fi access point signals to recognize that you're actually in London."

Bonechi also added that users who want to keep their location private can disable the option or delete their location from specific emails.

Google's tracking technology has not received full support from security experts.

Just a day after Google Latitude was released, Privacy International called Google's new mapping application an “unnecessary danger" to users' security and privacy.

Simon Davies, director of the London-based privacy rights group, said in a statement that Google Latitude could be a "gift" to stalkers, prying employers and jealous partners.

But Google was quick to respond. Replying to questions in an email, a spokeswoman said their engineers and designers took privacy and security concerns into account when they created Google Latitude.