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July 2, 2019

Yes, Google Maps Now Shows Your Speed; No, It Doesn’t Plan to Sell It to Insurers or the Police

Not to be used by law enforcement...

By CBR Staff Writer

Google says it has no plans to sell, or otherwise monetise users’ speeding data after quietly introducing a new speedometer feature in Google maps last month.

The feature, which uses GPS to show a user’s speed on their smartphone, caught many users unawares and drew a mixed reaction on social media.

It is currently only available on Android, with Google Maps saying in late June that it is working on an iOS version of the speedometer.

Google says no plans are afoot whatsoever to open up an API to insurance companies, traffic police, or any other entity. A Google spokesman did not deny that users’ speed during a journey might be stored, however as part of a users’ Google Maps data.

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Google Maps Speedo Data: “Location History Turned Off by Default”

Asked if this were the case, they replied: “Location History is turned off by default for your Google Account and can only be turned on if you opt in.”

“You can manage your location history settings at any time. You can also turn off the speedometer and speed limits from being shown from within Navigation Settings (Settings > Navigation Settings >  “Driving Options”” they said.

The company added in an emailed statement: “We fight government requests for information, and we do not sell your personal data to anyone.”

Requests for Google user data in the UK, past decade. Credit, Google.

On a support page, the company described the feature as for “informational purposes only” – perhaps given the questionable accuracy of GPS to track speed with precision (it is, however, often no more nor less accurate than car speedometers).

The feature first appeared in the Waze app, which Google bought in 2013.

The company is also rolling out a “speed limits” feature that will inform users if they are driving too fast: “The speed indicator will change colors if you go over the speed limit”, the support page notes, adding: “External factors may cause the Maps Speedometer to differ from your actual speed.” (GPS, at steady speeds, is widely held +/-1 mph.

Google’s regular transparency report  which discloses the number and type of requests for user data it gets from government agencies, courts and parties in civil litigation shows that there were 4,128 user data requests made in the UK in H2 of 2018.

Read this: UK Ordnance Survey to use Mobileeyes EyeQ to Build Detailed Maps


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