Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Forbes: Why Google's Waze Is Trading User Data With Local Governments

Moovit’s map on the big screen in Rio’s Department of Transport’s control room; (Photo via Moovit)

In a recent article for Forbes, Parmy Olson reports on the new data sharing practices of two popular travel apps, Waze and Moovit.  The article focuses on Rio de Janeiro, “the first city in the world to collect real-time data both from drivers who use the Waze navigation app and pedestrians who use the public-transportation app Moovit, giving it an unprecedented view on thousands of moving points across the sprawling city.”  These companies are turning “millions of users into a network of sensors that municipalities can tap into for a better view on traffic and hazards.”

Instead of using the information to make money, the apps are “swapping data for data,” exchanging an aggregated view of their users’ movements in exchange for real-time information on roads, traffic, and transit.  Though the data the apps are sharing is “anonymous and aggregated… that could change in the coming years as cities exploit the monitoring abilities of these apps to not just keep an eye on us, but tweak our behavior too,” by influencing drivers’ departure times or assigning car-pooling groups.

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