back to article OpenStreetView? You are no longer hostage to Google's car-driven vision

One of the great bright lights of open-source software and user-driven community projects is OpenStreetMap, which offers an open-source mapping platform similar to, but also very philosophically different than, Google Maps. It manages to duplicate most of Google Maps using primarily the contributions of enthusiastic users, too …

  1. AMBxx Silver badge
    Big Brother


    Have enough problems with watching google to get rid of images of my house. Now another?

    1. DropBear

      Re: Privacy?

      Do tell, are you also trawling Facebook on a daily basis for GPS-tagged photos that - God forbid - may have included "your house" in the background too...? Why not cordon off the entire street at the far end - it's much harder to take photos that way. Maybe some wrought iron gating and barbed wire, with a few trenches and landmines for good measure...? I reckon that ought to do it.

    2. John 110

      Re: Privacy?

      Why bother?

      Anyone walking past can get a better view of your house than on streetview(s) of any description, and if they are actually in your street, they can see if you're in or not before attempting to nick your stuff.

      1. Stuart Castle Silver badge

        Re: Privacy?

        "Anyone walking past can get a better view of your house than on streetview(s) of any description, and if they are actually in your street, they can see if you're in or not before attempting to nick your stuff."

        Anyone looking at a house long enough to case the joint runs the risk of being noticed. OK, so they can go to a house, photograph it without anyone noticing, then look at the photo(s) as much as they want, but that requires a level of planning that apparently most burglars don't do.

        Any Streetview service enables a potential burglar to look at a house for as long as they want, and sometimes from multiple angles and is, according to at least one ex-burglar I've seen on TV an ideal tool for any opportunist burglar to case the joint looking for potential weaknesses that could be exploited to gain entry to a building (such as a bin that could be turned upside down to allow entry to an upper window (for instance).

        Personally, I've never really understood the point of streetview services. Beyond a bit of virtual sightseeing (although seeing a photo of a landmark is nowhere near as interesting as actually seeing the landmark), I don't actually see any legitimate use for them. Yes, you can go up and down a street, looking at images of houses, shops, flats and other buildings, but how often do you actually need to do that? Most streets are largely residential anyway, and in a lot of areas, one house looks much like most of the rest.

    3. MrXavia

      Re: Privacy?

      There is no expectation of privacy in public places..... so unless someone walks onto your property and starts taking photos to upload, then you have no reason to complain... but they do need a way to allow property owners to mark a geo-fence to block any images taken on their property.....

    4. heyrick Silver badge

      Re: Privacy?

      I see this on Google Street View.

      Don't you think it is mightily suspicious that a property on a road is blurred? What doesn't the owner want noticed? It's a bit like the Streisand Effect in that had they simply not bothered, it just would have been yet another unremarkable house in an unremarkable street full of such unremarkable houses.

      In other words, your desire for "privacy" is actually more likely to be highlighting you as something to look at a little closer.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Privacy?

        Indeed - a celeb local to me has Streetview actually turned off for about 100 yards past their house. However, if you go back to map view at the right zoom it actually names the house on the map, and a moments Googling shows who lives there.

        If Streetview had been left alone you'd not really have even been able to SEE the house behind its hedge.

      2. EddieD

        Re: Privacy?

        Fred the Shred had his house removed from streetview - not just blurred, a whole 100m on 2 roads in Edinburgh vanished.

        As has Tony B.Liars house in Connaught Square.

        Talk about drawing attention to yourself.

    5. John Lilburne

      Re: Privacy?

      I see from the builders in the road I see that the little bastards went around my way about 3 months ago. Fortunately they still didn't manage to get into the close.

    6. Nattrash

      Re: Privacy?

      Why the down votes? Has the principle of consent vaporised? That's why (in Germany I know for sure) it's a legal right to decide whether you want your property (yes it has to be yours) to be photographed. If you consider the consent angle of it, I suppose it falls in the same category as the Google car picking up those interesting personal wifi signals. And as for the comments here: yes, you're right. Anybody can see your house. Then again, everybody can see your face too. But consider this: would you be OK with Google taking a picture of you, walking down the street while on the phone, without you knowing, without your consent, and without payment, for them to make money with it in their new ad campaign for their new Pixel Phone "that even an idiot can use"?

      1. Bloodbeastterror

        Re: Privacy?

        "Google taking a picture of you"

        You're equating my house with my face? Really? No, I don't particularly want my face to be broadcast via Streetview (though I'm not too bothered) but I'll carry my face with me until the day I die and a bit beyond. I can't say the same about my house, so I struggle to see your comparison.

        1. Nattrash

          Re: Privacy?

          Really? After all, it's both your property. So in the end, it is for you to decide what you want to do with it. Not Googles...

          (PS... Sure, I know, I know, bring on the planning commission remarks. But don't crucify me for introducing the consent angle and to regard this more holistically...)

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Privacy?

            "After all, it's both your property. So in the end, it is for you to decide what you want to do with it."

            That may be, but Google aren't removing your property, or damaging it. All they are doing is capturing a measurement of the light waves that are bouncing off it.

            Imagine trying to take photos of absolutely anywhere if people had to be asked if they were a stakeholder in anything that was in the photo. The randoms faces in the background, the field, building, trees, statue, rubbish bin, chimney stack in the distance etc. etc.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Privacy?

        Google aren't forcing your own devices to take pictures of your house. Google, like anyone, at least in the UK and US can take pictures in the street which captures people.

        Your house is on many a satellite photo, estate agent databases and many online sources from previous sales.

        I can understand if the picture captured happened to show you with the garage door open and a rare car or expensive tools in there, or you were doing something embarrassing with the neighbour that you would rather your wife didn't see, but a bog standard picture of your house, meh.

      3. Mike Moyle

        Re: Privacy?

        "Then again, everybody can see your face too. But consider this: would you be OK with Google taking a picture of you, walking down the street while on the phone, without you knowing, without your consent, and without payment, for them to make money with it in their new ad campaign for their new Pixel Phone 'that even an idiot can use"?'

        A friend of mine once got an irate phone call from her mother because a Weather Channel camera crew had caught her jaywalking while shooting footage of the tail end of a hurricane. TWC made money off of the footage (selling ads on TV). Since Google makes their money from selling ads also, how is Google's use of the exterior of your property different? (Note that, in the mobile-goalpost version used in your example, the salient fact is that it implies that the person in the ad is using a Pixel phone which, being disprovable, sets them up for a massive libel suit by encouraging the audience to infer that the person is an idiot who can ONLY use a Pixel phone. So there's that.)

    7. Piro Silver badge

      Re: Privacy?

      I can tell you for a fact that a house becomes a lot more interesting on Street View when it's covered by a blurry block.

  2. Bloodbeastterror

    "get rid of images of my house"

    Just out of curiosity, why...? People can see it when they walk past. Or are you in a private secure walled single-residence compound?

  3. Dr Paul Taylor

    Portable atlas?

    We carry around with us nowadays plenty of spare storage and cpu power to include an atlas, or at least a street atlas of wherever we're planning to go. However, the powers that sell us the technology ignore that and want us "connected" all the time, I suspect for their own motives. Another problem with carrying a digital atlas is copyright.

    So where I hoped this article might be going was to tell us that OpenStreetMap now has excellent coverage and some easy to use system for downloading data in bulk and displaying it as needed. Maybe it could use the Debian package management system. But no, that's not sexy enough. It would be nice to know anyway.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Portable atlas?

      Try "Mapfactor Navigator" for Android to be able to download OSM maps on to your phone. I use the "free" version, which has the occasional banner ad, but then I use my phone with data turned off, so maybe it shows more ads if it can download them. As I understand it, it can also use TomTom maps, but I'm a cheapskate.

      I haven't found an OSM GPS app for iphone that I like as much, but then again, I haven't tried very hard.

    2. Paul 25

      Re: Portable atlas?

      Google Maps app lets you download map areas for use while you are offline. Always worth doing before a long journey.

      1. Kevin Johnston

        Re: Portable atlas?

        If you want offline then try OsmAnd. Currently available for most platforms and will even do route calculation offline

      2. Wade Burchette

        Re: Portable atlas?

        "Google Maps app lets you download map areas for use while you are offline."

        The problem with Google Maps (on the Android at least) is that it purposefully gimps itself if you do not turn on "high accuracy" location. Waze maps bugs you, but works just fine using GPS only. A Garmin works just fine using GPS. OSM works just fine using only GPS. For that reason, I stopped using Google Maps.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Portable atlas?

      There's many free and paid for apps for carrying offline map data so I don't understand your statement.

      Here maps is good and free, osmand gives you all the open streetmap data for free. There's rmaps, viewranger etc.

    4. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Portable atlas?

      Here Maps (or it's new name of Here WeGo.. :/ ) lets you download the whole planet, space permitting.

    5. Harry Wood

      Re: Portable atlas?

      Try OSMAnd which others have mentioned, or I would recommend MAPS.ME for iPhone and Android. Great for general use, but also by the way, these are fantastic as a thing to set yourself up with before going on holiday, to save on roaming fees.

      Funny that you would highlight this precise advantage of OpenStreetMap without realising it as such. You are correct that google likes to keep you connected, so that it can more effectively attach advertising to your map usage. So... OpenStreetMap!

  4. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

    How "open" is OpenStreetMap?

    It is indeed an excellent resource, I use OSM maps in my GPS when I'm in places that its internal maps don't cover.

    The problem is that it is so good, extensive and high-quality, that I cannot believe it's all the work of happy amateur surveyors and mapmakers. I have to assume that most of its data comes from hobbyists scanning in material from copyrighted and/or paid-for sources. To use it as an example of what a community can do if it turns its minds to it is somewhat disingenuous, I fear.

    1. Dave Pickles

      Re: How "open" is OpenStreetMap?

      Well I'm one of the "happy amateur surveyors and mapmakers" and all my cycling around local housing estates with a GPS is entirely my own work. The project does have the right to use some other sources; Bing maps and the OS OpenData products can be used as a backdrop to get road alignment correct.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: How "open" is OpenStreetMap?

      Frankly, there's too much fact-free supposition going on across the Internet now. Your idle speculation about OSM contributors pirating copyrighted sources being Exhibit A. What possessed you to make such an accusation? What's in it for you? It might be understandable if you were a Google corp. troll, but if you have no financial interest it doesn't make any sense. It's like... Illuminati confirmed!

      1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

        Re: How "open" is OpenStreetMap?

        What possessed you to make such an accusation? What's in it for you?

        No accusation, nothing in it for me. Just a back-of-the-envelope calculation,. Even if all the amateur mapmakers in the US were off on their bikes like Dave Pickles (above) I don't think there are enough of them, with the aerial surveying equipment they need, to turn out the huge level of accurate detail that we see in OSM.

        I'm not suggesting any sort of criminal conspiracy, but I suspect many people have picked up a "free" map at the tourist office and thought "Oh, I know, I'll load it into OSM for everyone else", etc.. Nice idea, but it ignores that little "(C)" at the bottom.

        1. dkjd

          Re: How "open" is OpenStreetMap?

          Just to be pedantic, (C) never had any copyright meaning at all, only the word "copyright" or "©" worked.

          Nowadays you get copyright without needing either. But (C) has never had any legal meaning.

    3. Adam 52 Silver badge

      Re: How "open" is OpenStreetMap?

      OpenStreetMap isn't very open. First of all there's the licence, which isn't open at all and is why I stopped contributing to the project (after adding two large towns).

      Then there's all the mapping derived from tracing copyright maps or satellite images. When I did contribute I had to regularly revert "corrections" people had added that were in Teleatlas but not there in real life.

      As for "OpenStreetMap is every bit as accurate as Google Maps", well that depends. Google no longer depend on Teleatlas and supplement with OSM and other providers so you get the best of both.

      OSM has more footpath level information, but for a map *lack* of a feature is just as important as presence of a feature and OSM scores really badly on consistency of coverage.

      Topology is also questionable, with users having to guess connections on the network to fudge around inaccuracy in the raw data. Same with rights-of-way, which are a bit wild-west in OSM.

      1. Harry Wood

        Re: How "open" is OpenStreetMap?

        "scores really badly on consistency of coverage." is a reasonable criticism. It's a problem I've given a talk about in fact As the community maps more and more detail, we do become consistent within the more important feature mapping. So you give footpaths as an example. It's an interesting one because while we may be inconsistent in footpath coverage currently, I would guess this one is very solve-able with more volunteers getting involved. Meanwhile there's higher detail things like mapping every tree and bench, where we'll probably struggle to consistently do this for many years to come (but if benches and trees are not your use case, this may not be a problem)

        "Topology is quite questionable". Well please question it. Try planning route, and if you find it refusing to take you through a junction which should be joined up, please use the "Notes" feature to report an issue, or (since you know how to) make an edit yourself. My experience in the UK, is that the road network is very well mapped for routing purposes, so the becomes a use case which OpenStreetMap serves just as well as other providers and in a free and open way. With march of mapping progress we will swallow other use cases too. But if you're referring topology of footpaths, I agree that is an issue. We should improve it where we find bugs, but particularly in urban settings it's a very difficult thing to achieve fully joined up pedestrian routing. We're improving it steadily, but may never manage it completely.

        Google do not supplement using OSM. We would like it if they did, but they don't because they want to own it all themselves. They don't want to be giving credit to OpenStreetMap and sending map data users there instead. I know of one occasion they were caught supplementing using OSM in a south american country, which they say was due to buying data from unscrupulous suppliers (I understand they apologised and removed the data)

        "First of all there's the licence, which isn't open at all". Well that's rather sweeping clearly incorrect statement. OpenStreetMap data is released under a free and open license. As I'm sure you are aware, it's not "copyright free". It's an open license. It has restrictions designed to keep the data free. Now however you feel on the issue of whether OpenStreetMap should be using a "share-alike" license (The requirement to share back changes/improvements made, and disallow locking down the data and making it more closed) ...your objection, you must surely admit, is a lot more nuanced than just saying it "isn't open at all".

    4. dbannon

      Re: How "open" is OpenStreetMap?

      "...I have to assume that most of its data comes from hobbyists scanning in material from copyrighted and/or paid-for sources..."

      No, definitely not the case. Anyone who contributes to OSM is endlessly reminded not to copy. Lots of contributers take great pleasure in spotting possible breaches of that rule.

      Its worth noting some governments decide, quite rightly, that their data is publicly funded and therefore publicly owned. See the OSM "Attribution" pages. But overall, I still think most data in there has come from people walking, riding or driving with phones or GPS enabled laptops recording away.

      "... an example of what a community can ...." - that it is, most certainly !

  5. jms222

    It wouldn't be the first product written with reference to, but supposedly not copying less open products.

  6. Peter 26

    Great for Runners

    OSM is great for finding public foot paths and bridleways which aren't on Google Maps.

    Very handy when planning a running route.

    1. Little_Crow

      Re: Great for Runners

      Definitely, OSM is far better for planning walks than Google Maps.

      It's improved and shortened quite a number of walks to, between and from pubs over the Google prescribed walking routes.

      It's a sadly underutilised resource, I feel.

  7. jimmyhill1998

    As good as if not better than Google Maps?

    Have you tried it's directions functionality that can't recognise UK postcodes. For example a London journey from N7 9LA to SE3 9AB in Google Maps is a 40 minute drive, in open street it's not possible because it is a journey from "N7, Avignon, Vaucluse, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, 84000, France" to "Nigel SE3 Route, Alberta, Canada"

    1. Dave Pickles

      Re: As good as if not better than Google Maps?

      That's because the Post Code database is not 'free' in any sense of the word. OSM would not want to have to pay many thousands of pounds per year for the right to use it, and could not accept the restrictions on use of the data which would doubtless be required.

      1. DaLo

        Re: As good as if not better than Google Maps?

        I don't believe that is true. The Code-Point Open was released FoC even for commercial use quite some time ago.

        What is not free it the postcode address file, but that is not needed in this scenario as you just need to convert a postcode to a WGS reference, which is included in the file.

        I don't know about the legalities of open sourcing a postcode/address database where users all submit their own address postcode or ones they know - after all isn't a collection of facts not copyrightable?

        1. Jon 37

          Re: As good as if not better than Google Maps?

          > isn't a collection of facts not copyrightable?

          A fact is probably not copyrightable, although the way you write down that fact is probably copyrightable. But the person who collects and organizes a collection of facts probably has "database rights" which are different to but similar to copyright.



          1. DaLo

            Re: As good as if not better than Google Maps?

            Yes of course, but this would be a collection of data in an open-source manner which would could then be assigned a necessary CC or other licence. The facts themselves - in so far as "the post code for 33 Acacia Avenue is AA1 1AA" is not, I presume copyrightable and so could be crowd-sourced?

            Either way, my main point was that postcode to WGS data is available, even for commercial use free of charge using code-point open from the Ordnance Survey so I'm not sure why I've been downvoted.

  8. MJI Silver badge

    Confusing header in article

    OS Map fan

    Yes many of us are fans of OS maps

    From Ordnance Survey

    I spent ages looking for the bit about Ordnance Survey!

  9. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    "OpenStreetMap is every bit as accurate as Google Maps"

    So, not at all in any useful manner.

    1. Captain Boing
      Thumb Down


      "not at all"? so when faced with map or no map, you would prefer the latter if there was only google. Exactly.

      google maps I have found to be very accurate and the map data is subject to much tighter correction/alteration than anything else, and street view is excellent for showing me what I am looking for when I get to a new address (mainly UK or Canada).

      Really, John, don't stand on the sidelines and sneer - get involved, make a difference.

    2. Harry Wood

      Your comment can be taken as feedback by OpenStreetMap volunteers and used to make improvements, not at all in any useful manner

  10. Captain Boing

    hmmm... has a long way to go. it seems it is uni-directional, you don't have a lot of scan around a particular point , and even some goyt has used his approach/departure from heathrow plan to "add" info. IN THE DARK!!!

    Like most crowd-sourced stuff, it comes from a loving place but it will degenerate into mediocrity and flame-wars

  11. james2432

    I coded my own GUI upload system written in JAVA

    They also have a gui upload, but you have to compile it from c/c++ code

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Other stories you might like