Organizational mapping policy

Posted by pnorman on 14 May 2014 in English (English)

This is a cross-post of

We have more and more organizations and businesses mapping in OSM. Multiple organizations have been conducting paid editing in Europe and the US. This generally comes to light after complaints are made - with the company usually not identifying who they are, what their goals are, and what they want, beforehand. There have also been difficulties determining what has been mapped on behalf of an organization.

We will likely see more of this type of editing in the future, and while not necessarily bad, there are differences between it and normal editing. Recent events in a project similar to OpenStreetMap - Wikipedia - have demonstrated that the participation of organizations in data editing can occasionally lead to misunderstandings or disharmony in the project, particularly where a lack of transparency is involved.

For this reason the DWG is considering if it is necessary to issue guidelines for organizational editing. Some previous discussion is at

There are some activities we do not want to cover in the guidelines

  • Unorganized editing by employees, e.g. a shop owner adding their shop or nearby details to the map

  • Editors mapping in response to a contest or similar where the contest organizer does not have the power to require them to edit

  • Individuals who, on their own accord, decide to participate in an organised effort or challenge, like local mapping parties, Mapathons, HOT projects, etc

Some possible guideline requirements could involve

  • Disclosing those who are directing them (e.g. employers or who they are contracting for) on the users page

  • Creating a wiki page with links to user pages of users mapping under an organization's direction

  • Requiring those working on broader projects to communicate and get feedback from the community before starting

  • Requiring disclosure of proprietary third-party sources used. Organizations may have data from third parties that they can legally use when contributing to OSM, but aren't able to directly show others the data

  • Maintaining separate accounts if doing both personal and organizational editing

The extent of editing activities covered is something else that needs to be discussed.

Some types of activities that could be covered are

  • Teachers requiring their students to edit OSM as part of a course

  • Consultants editing for multiple clients

  • Being required to edit as part of an employment relationship

SEO spammers would be covered by this policy, but are not the target. They would ignore it, so we'll just end up using the existing tools of reverting and blocking.

Paul Norman
For the Data Working Group

Login to leave a comment