Liberating your My Maps data

Richard in his post at the OpenGeoData blog, highlights the work of Google’s Data Liberation Front which aims to make sure that user data hosted on Google servers can always be exported out for use in other services or applications.

So what of Geodata, well contrary to popular opinion if you create a My Maps mash up you are just one click away from exporting your map data as a KML file;  just click on the link marked “View in Google Earth” and a KML file of your map is downloaded.

Richard asks if it is possible for Google to offer a “mass tracing” right similar to that offered to the Open Street Map Community by Yahoo. This I’m afraid Google cannot currently do as we don’t have the rights to offer this on a universal basis.

I hope this is a useful clarification, sorry I could not add a comment on the blog itself for some reason.

Written and submitted from home, using my home 802.11 network

49 replies on “Liberating your My Maps data”

Your blog post was a little vague, does this mean that points that were pin pointed using Google maps/streetview/sat imagery as long as it isn’t vector data isn’t restricted in re-use?

Hi John,

You can create vector data from Google Maps, via My Maps for example or a Maps API application, but this must not be for the bulk creation of data. From the terms of service..

“Also, you may not use Google Maps in a manner which gives you or any other person access to mass downloads or bulk feeds of numerical latitude and longitude coordinates.”


I was talking about points, it was clear from your post that vector data isn’t allowed but things like generate POIs from gMaps etc.

Is this sort of activity specifically an unrestricted allowed use or are they also in breach of google T&Cs?

@John, Points are vector data ?

@Ivan MapMaker is different, Google has the appropriate rights to use imagery for this application in particular areas.

So it all comes down to the definition of “mass downloads or bulk feeds”.

I guess this means that me tracing my 6 hour walk and exporting that (I do actually do this), and then re-licensing it as a walking route is ok.

But systematically tracing every single road and re-licensing that (in the way that OSM contributors might do) is out.

Still a bit vague though – what if a large number of people individually trace their walks and share them, and then someone aggregates them all together to produce a map?

And is there a difference between tracing the map tiles vs the satellite tiles? What about if I upload my GPS trace to My Maps, and then adjust it slightly using the satellite photography (eg to improve bits where the signal was weak). Does that add any restrictions?

It’s decidedly murky.

Can’t Google just acquire the satellite photography companies that you’ve licences from? 🙂

(A bit easier to reply here than with 140 Twitter characters!)

If you make a document with Google Docs, then decide you want to use it elsewhere – say, upload it to Adobe Buzzword, or print it out and give copies to your mates, or whatever – you can do that. There’s an export function and there’s no restrictions on how you use your exported data.

If you organise your life with Google Calendar, then figure you’d rather use iCal or, perhaps, Outlook on your work intranet, again, that’s no problem. Google doesn’t restrict what you do with the data you created.

But if you create a mashup with Google Maps… yes, you can get the data out as KML. But unlike the others, you’re restricted in how you can use it. You probably can’t upload it elsewhere. You probably can’t publish it. You can view it on your own computer with Google Earth, but that’s about it.

So that’s the Data Liberation angle.

Whether or not your current contracts allow you to offer this – well, that’s your business. 🙂 I’m sure the Data Liberation guys are willing to get stuck into legal issues as well as technical ones; certainly YouTube, Google News etc. have shown that Google is never shy of tackling ‘content providers’ about copyright for users’ benefit.

(I’m always a little bemused by the suggestion that Yahoo buys more rights than Google does. If I were Yahoo, would I spend an extra £10,000 on some obscure rights, or on aerial imagery of Birmingham? But you’ll have more of an inside track on this than I do.)

What we really need is clarity. That’s why the Moderator request just says “sort the legalities”. Right now Geonames, for example, lets you mash up vector data from a Google aerial image and export it elsewhere (as a CSV, say) whereas OpenStreetMap doesn’t. There’s several more examples where Google allows sites like this to persist. My reading of the Ts&Cs is that you don’t actually forbid it.

A real Data Liberation success would be to make Google Maps mashups as unencumbered as anything else on Google. At the very least, a definitive, unambiguous statement of what users can and can’t do is long overdue.

Ed can you please be more specific, is is in breach of Google T&Cs or not?

Wikitude allows bulk downloading of data created using google maps, sat imagery or street view depending on what their site implements.


Indeed the limitations of real time micro blogging 🙂

About Mash-ups I fundamentally disagree Google makes no claims over the ownership of your data (unlike some others) and you are free to use KML data in whatever way you wish, not just in Google properties.

I can’t comment of Yahoo’s rational or approach to licensing data, or I can do is try to explain why Open Street Map is currently unable to use imagery from within Google sites in the same way.

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