Google Maps’ Traffic Reports Protect Privacy

Sep 14, 2009
Google Maps has a new feature that utilizes the functionality of GPS-enabled smart phones to measure traffic conditions on major US highways and arterials.  The traffic stats are compiled from whatever data is available at the time based on the speed and direction that users are traveling.  The more people using the service at a given time, the more accurate the reports become.

The service is provided entirely free of charge with Google Maps, but some consumers are concerned that the information being used to track their cars could be used for other purposes.  Google has added a host of privacy features to the application to assuage these fears; data is combined from multiple phones before reaching Google, making it hard to identify any one phone from another, and all of the information is anonymous in nature.  In addition, users are easily able to opt out of sending their location data to Google.  As a final security measure, Google’s software determines the start and end points of every trip it tracks and deletes them, so that nobody can track where a vehicle came from or where it ended up.  After deletion, not even Google will have the data.

Several phones come with Google Maps pre-installed such as the Palm Pre, MyTouch 3G, and Apple’s iPhone.  With such a large user base, the traffic monitoring software should quickly become a central feature of Google Maps.

Photo courtesy of dannysullivan under the Creative Commons License.