ODI advises UK to force Google, Apple and Uber to share mapping data

“The UK government should force Google, Apple, Uber and others to share their mapping data so that other companies can develop autonomous cars, drones and transport apps, according to an influential campaign group,” Aliya Ram and Madhumita Murgia report for Financial Times.

“The Open Data Institute, co-founded by Tim Berners-Lee at MIT and Nigel Shadbolt, artificial intelligence professor at the University of Oxford, warned on Tuesday that big tech companies had become ‘data monopolies,'” Ram and Murgia report. “The group said the UK’s Geospatial Commission should ask the companies to share map data with rivals and the public sector in a collaborative database or else force them to do so with legislation.”

“Companies such as Google, Apple and Uber have invested millions of dollars in building vast data pools that document everything from landscape features such as waterways and roads to data on how traffic flows, how land is used and where boundaries lie. Concern is mounting over how such data pools can stifle competition by making it more difficult for small businesses to innovate without access to equally rich information,” Ram and Murgia report. “Margrethe Vestager, the EU’s competition commissioner, told a conference in Lisbon this year that data dominance had become a concern. ‘When just a few companies hold lots and lots of data, it can become very hard for anyone else to compete against them.'”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Companies have each invested millions of dollars and untold man-hours in building their mapping data. It’s their data, not for any governments or quasi-governments to steal by force.

Tim Berners-Lee has sung “Kumbaya” far too many times.


  1. Have to agree with MDN on this one.
    On the surface, it appears to be super beneficial to consumers if these companies could share data to make up a super map. But if there was such a need, it has to be encouraged among themselves, not by the government or fringe outside organizations. If all data/efforts would be consolidated, parties will lose competitive motivation.

  2. Government. The cudgel of the socialist.

    Berners-Lee is one of those “All information wants to be Free” types who demonstrably has a hard time with ideas like property.

    Wozniak once said “Information wants to be free, but your time is not.”

    What the free information people miss, is that Apple built this information database to make money. Not to give away. If forced to give it away, they will be strongly encouraged to never embark upon such useful projects again.

    Classic Little Red Hen example. https://goo.gl/xh8rqW

    1. Well said – AND why would they invest the money to keep updating it if they have to give it away? Consumers have benefited INCREDIBLY by the competition between Google, Apple, Garmin, and Nokia – WHY would you tamper with what’s working oh yeah:
      “The most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”
      ― Ronald Reagan

  3. The problem is that this information is becoming incredibly complex and vital for innovation, thus very expensive. This is different to previous generations where even start ups cand with backing compete. At some stage therefore we go from massive benefits to innovation into a world of a few juggernauts actually limiting innovation by their control of mean’s to do so and nimble companies with novel ideas are essentially shut out. We do. Of want another Microsoft. Controlling, limiting and holding back innovation that benefits all, simply because with little impetus to go on spending due to lack of effective competition making it necessary we all potentially stagnate. The great leaps forward are because technology has enabled new ideas to flourish, the opposite would be a disaster and unfettered capitalism always have periods of thwarting competition as well as breeding it. Thus government does have a role here and surely a compromise solution whereby companies gain from their investments while allowing access to essential aspects of it to others though Frand like agreements can be organised. Apple itself has benefited from such access to in developing new ideas where without government initiated fair access it would not be the company it is simply because early on it had virtually no ownership of the essential technology required. Surely the not dissimilar Qualcomm scenario where MDN seems to take the opposite tack, should teach us something about trying to unfairly exclude others who might do a better job.

  4. Maybe it can be done based on eminent domain justified by benefiting the commons, with the correct amt. of compensation dictated by market forces offered to the IP owner. This process is already established for properties of land when a governmental entity seeks to lay highways or for parks, for examples, or for anything benefiting a large segment of society in general.

      1. Logic seldom applies in the world of business.

        Look at healthcare: profiteering galore, massive fraud and middlemen. But we can’t change it, because if everyone had preventative care then big pharma would make less money. Never mind the fact that patients are never given prices up front or clear data on the statistical outcomes of expensive treatments. Pure greed, zero logic. If anything needs to be eminent domain, it should be healthcare. HMOs and pharma can stick it where the sun don’t shine.

  5. I am just offering a perspective and it might form a basis for ODI’s request.

    How was the data collected? Was it all by Apple, Google, etc. efforts and will? Or did it come from crowed sources, IE: the public. Granted each company built the platform on which the data was raked in, but it was through the behaviors of the people who made the data possible.

    How do roads exist? Where is the initial source of mapping? When commerce exists on roads, a tax is paid, was that tax collected?

    Effectively the full set of data exists and was obtained by the efforts of more than just Apple or Google. It was a combined effort of carriers of technology, builder’s of roads, satellite makers, airplane builders, and car manufactures – the people who use it all. Google and Apple are the focal point of the data acquisition and processing, they put order to it and made it commercial. Their benefit to society is by offering a model to attract people to locations. Who pays for that?

    I think the same thing can be said for DNA.

    There’s OpenMaps, OpenDNA, OpenSource. Most that information is rough…

    Maybe the request should be, to make OpenMaps better, but not so much so, to be competitive.

  6. This may be one of the major issues of our time. Monopolization of data has serious negative effects on business — “too big to fail” some to mind. Democracy is measurably damaged when the citizen has no representative voice against the duopoly and defacto monopoly multinational corporations that own everything, including the press, legislatures, and the very ground you walk on. All is for sale to the highest bidder, which locks out the individual citizen or small businesses.

    Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

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