Verizon Wireless puts a social spin on maps

Technology from a company called Loopt will help Verizon Wireless create a new social network that allows friends to use GPS technology to locate other friends and share geo-tagged photos for a small fee per month.

Users of the Loopt service are able to create a network of mutual friends and relatives who can all be located via an on-screen map. They can then share their own location, along with geo-tagged photos, with people in their phone address book or AOL Instant Messenger buddy lists.

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Loopt allows users to select which friends they share tracking and location information with, and promises strict privacy controls.

The new service will be available to Verizon Wireless users starting next month for a $3.99 monthly charge. More than 20 Verizon Wireless mobile phones have GPS capabilities and will be able to run Loopt.

Mobile phone providers are becoming increasingly interested in letting users have the ability to track one another, especially as better safeguards are being implemented. For example, Sprint Nextel and its Boost Mobile brand also have integrated Loopt technology into several of its GPS-enabled mobile phones, and will continue to roll out new phones for the service. Helio also uses tracking technology that is very similar to Loopt. Verizon, Sprint and Alltel all use other GPS-based technology that lets parents keep track of where their children are.

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