September 2010
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Google MapMaker

Google will be launching their MapMaker tools in the US pretty soon.  Basically crowdsourcing the creation of GIS data.  It has interesting implications – should the County use these tools to update its data?  The nice part is that Google is allowing the download of the data – allowing it outside the sandbox of their own tools.  Especially for GIS professionals, who generally use the ESRI toolsets, this is nice.  But there are some interesting issues, since this data is not public domain at all.  It sounds very much like the licensed data that LA County has been using from Thomas Brothers/Rand McNally for years – with the exception that governments can share the data since their isn’t a cost for licensing.

The online tools themselves look very nice, easy to use, and the moderating and authoring features are definitely a major plus.

I read through the licensing, and found at least a few items that merit enough issues that I doubt agencies will really sign this.  Some key ones …

  1. Section 4.2 – Google reserves the right to refuse or discontinue offering downloads to the Map Maker Source Data to anyone, and to disable users’ ability to download Map Maker Source Data at any time in its sole discretion with or without notice. If we can’t be assured that the data will always be available that will cause issues.
  2. Section 8.3 -Your Map Project Must Provide Google with Attribution. Unless otherwise agreed to by Google in a written amendment to these Terms, in every instance in which the Map Maker Source Data are used in Your Map Project, Your Map Project must include the following attribution notice in accordance with the requirements below: (a) Text of Notice: “Map Data © 2009 Google – Improve with Google Map Maker“.  What about a map that includes some data from Google and most of the data from non-Google sources.  Interesting attribution problem.
  3. Section 10.5 (section b) – You must not use the Map Maker Source Data to create a service that is based on, or is part of, a non-Google mapping service or API. What about ESRI Server technologies?

Some good information for background :

Google MapMaker is a product that allows users to edit and create digital maps in 180+ countries worldwide.

We believe that users are the local experts – only you truly know the community you live in and are the mapmakers of your world. Google MapMaker also empowers governments, businesses (small and large) to have a true mapping presence on the web. This GIS presence supports engagement with your community, partners and other agencies. Google MapMaker was developed in direct response to people’s desire to engage in the mapping of their environments. While consumers are embracing the product, we see rapid adoption amongst government agencies and NGO’s around the world.

The product is simple to use, yet powerful as a tool to support GIS and communications programs.

Here are some helpful links for using Google MapMaker:

  1. Please review this simple presentation for an overview of the product
  2. Please see these video links for a simple tutorial of the product
  3. Please review these testimonial for more insights into the use of Google MapMaker

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