Google announced yesterday in a blog post that it is harnessing anonymous speed and position from Google Maps (GMaps) users to improve its traffic service. As a consequence, Google is able to expand its traffic layer to cover all U.S. Highways and arterials – i.e. where and when they have users on the road. This traffic data will be available on Google Maps both on the web and on the mobile application.
As usual, Google is putting a lot of emphasis on privacy. Many other companies are using this sort of data without much talk on privacy, but in the case of Google it has to defend itself against its “big brother” status. “We only use anonymous speed and location information to calculate traffic conditions, and only do so when you have chosen to enable location services on your phone” said Google. “We use our scale to provide further privacy protection: When a lot of people are reporting data from the same area, we combine their data together to make it hard to tell one phone from another. Even though the vehicle carrying a phone is anonymous, we don’t want anybody to be able to find out where that anonymous vehicle came from or where it went — so we find the start and end points of every trip and permanently delete that data so that even Google ceases to have access to it.”
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