5 Privacy-Focused Mapping Solutions

Navigation apps have played a key role in the evolution of mobile. Since the iPhone’s debut in 2007, maps and navigation apps have been some of the most popular downloads. By some estimates, as many as 90% of consumers under age 50 now use mapping apps. According to eMarketer, two-thirds of U.S. smartphone owners use these apps at least once per month.

Mainstream navigation apps like Google Maps and Waze seem to dominate the marketplace, but consumers who are interested in maintaining as much online privacy as possible have options to choose from, too.

Innovative mapping and navigation companies are launching new platforms with user privacy in mind. Framing themselves as the “private” alternative to general use navigation apps, these platforms collect minimal personal data from users and often work without tracking user locations.

Here are five examples of privacy-focused mapping platforms.

1. DuckDuckGo Maps
A search engine launched in 2008, DuckDuckGo has maintained a tight focus on privacy and anonymity since the very beginning. The company entered the maps space when it integrated with the Apple Maps API to provide local services and embedded maps in search results. DuckDuckGo uses Apple’s MapKit JS framework so its own maps have the same address database and satellite images as the Apple Maps app. However, users of DuckDuckGo Maps can access content without sharing personal data, such as their IP addresses. DuckDuckGo says user data and location information is always anonymous and it can’t be used to identify any single user.

2. OsmAnd Maps
OsmAnd Maps is a mapping app with access to OpenStreetMap data. People who use OsmAnd Maps can store map data on their devices’ memory cards for offline use, which means they don’t need to connect to the internet to access any of the main functionalities of the app. Although OsmAnd’s privacy policy says the company does aggregate non-personal data that cannot identify a user, and users may be asked to leave an email to get access to certain features, the company does not collect, store, process, or transfer any of its users’ personal information. OsmAnd is open source and actively being developed.

3. Sygic Maps
Sygic Maps is another mapping app that uses data from OpenStreetMap. Users can get information about traffic conditions, points of interest, parking spot suggestions, and speed limit warnings, and they can also access GPS navigation in an offline mode. Sygic Maps is designed to include plenty of traveler-friendly features, like personalized travel guides. From a privacy standpoint, Sygic Maps stands out because of its rules on data storage. Sygic Maps removes data collected for app improvement after three months, system logs after one year, and backups after three years. The company also complies with the GDPR when processing personal data.

4. Where To?
Originally developed by tap tap tap, Where To? is a location finder app that was acquired by the iPhone application developer FutureTap in November 2008. Consumers can use the app to discover the best places around them, wherever they are in the world. Without any typing or map reading skills, users can find any type of business or landmark in any location. In addition to directions, Where To? pulls up photos, videos, offers, and descriptions of businesses. It connects to more than 40 apps from the app store, including Navigon, TomTom, and Google Maps. In most cases Where To? only needs access to a user’s location while the app is in use, making it a viable alternative to more mainstream navigation apps.

5. HERE WeGo
HERE WeGo’s city navigation app has been around in various forms for years. It was originally developed by Nokia and released for Windows Phone in 2013. Today, it’s a navigation service that is very much focused on user privacy. HERE WeGo has maps for more than 200 countries that users can download to their devices and use offline, along with a huge database of points of interest and real-time traffic data that comes from police reports, cameras, Twitter feeds, and construction websites. The places that users go when they use the HERE WeGo app in online mode are deleted the moment their sessions are over, as are the timestamps used for navigation. Although HERE WeGo does use behavioral advertising, users have the option to change the settings so the ads they see aren’t profiling them.

Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.Rainbow over Montclair

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