Today, Garmin released an update to Smartphone Link which added an exciting feature called Tracker. Think of tracker as Garmin's version of Google Latitude. This feature requires an update to Smartphone Link in the Android Play Market as well as an upgrade to Nuvi firmware v6.2.
The Tracker functionality allows you to use your smartphone to keep track of other Garmin Tracker user's location. However, the Tracker feature also lets you post messages and location information to both Facebook and Twitter. Interestingly, Garmin's implementation of this feature seems to require both the Facebook and Twitter apps to be on your phone. You enable this feature from within the Smartphone Link app, not on your Nuvi. It appears to derive your login information for these services from the Facebook and Twitter apps themselves rather than having you enter them into the Smartphone Link app. When selecting the social network services you wish to use, appropriate permissions are requested and confirmed within the Smartphone Link app.
You can enable a "follow me" functionality that can be time limited. This feature allows you to select other Tracker users, as well as Facebook and Twitter posts, to be the recipient of periodic "check-ins" of your location. I have not yet experimented with how often the follow me check-ins occur.
There is also a manually initiated feature that allows you to "send" your current location to other Tracker users, to Facebook and to Twitter. You can select or deselect any of those services as you choose. Garmin has provided canned messages such as "running late" or "stuck in traffic" that can be selected. In a nice touch, Garmin has also populated the canned messages with messages that are "location aware." In other words, my current location city was populated as a select-able canned message. Also available was a message that said "it is 72 degrees here" obviously pulling that information from the Smartphone Link Advanced Weather feature. Job well done on this Garmin.
I selected a canned message that said "In Des Moines, IA" and posted it to Twitter and Facebook. The Nuvi presents a confirmation screen that the message was posted. Upon reviewing the resulting post on both Facebook and Twitter, I was pleased with the presentation, but also very concerned about the privacy implications of what I found.
On Facebook my message "In Des Moines, IA" was posted with the expected footer message indicating that it was posted by Garmin Tracker. But there was also a clickable image of a website in the post! On Twitter, it also said "In Des Moines, IA" but also contained a clickable URL!
When clicking either the Facebook or Twitter link, I was brought to this webpage:
I was very surprised to find the amount of detail being revealed that I found on this website. At the top of the page (not shown here) was my name, exactly how I'd entered it into the Garmin Tracker app. But more disturbing was the availability of data that included an exact street address, latitude / longitude, and speed I was traveling. There was also a map that included zoom controls that provides viewers with house-level precision of my location!
Perhaps I am too used to Google Latitude and its privacy controls, but I did not expect Garmin Tracker to reveal this level of detail about my location. I very often use social media to inform friends of my location, but in a very general sense. I might post that I've arrived "In Chicago, IL" or "Landed at LAX." But seldom do I want anyone but my immediate family to know my precise location to the level shown above.
The level of detail revealed by Garmin Tracker might be fine for my wife to know. But I probably don't want my Facebook friends to know that level of detail. And, for sure, I don't want my Twitter followers, who I might not even know, to know this level of detail.
Tying a location notification feature to your Garmin Nuvi makes perfect sense and it is well implemented by Garmin with this new Tracker feature. However, it badly needs user controls for the granularity of information shared, like Google Latitude currently offers. There are obvious reasons why, for the same location notification post, that I'd like my wife's Garmin Tracker ID to know my precise location, but my Facebook friends and Twitter followers to know only the town I am in. I can think of no case where revealing my speed is necessary or important.
Garmin has some work to do on disclosing and tightening up this privacy issue, but Tracker is a great start to a useful feature.