Privacy of contributions

Hello,
I just discovered Mapillary and find it very interesting. Maybe I didn’t look enough into the possibilities but there is one major point that worries me.

Let’s say I install a camera in my car to upload images to Mapillary. Anyone will then have access to my location history as we can see all the contributions of a specific user, thus its GPS position and date.

Is there any possibility for anonymizing uploads ?

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would making an account with a random username solve some of the problem? (so it wouldnt be connected to your other online names) or do you want to be able to upload most photos under a certain username but then have certain ones anonymously?

you dont have to capture everything if you dont want to either. i stop a few miles away from where i live and i didnt capture anything near there until months later so i dont think anyone would be able to figure out where i live just by looking at my sequences.

but maybe you have other privacy concerns that im not thinking of

I own my own ICT company, and searching the web a bit… you would find my anyway, so I don’t bother hiding here :wink:

For you. That is all up to you, different name. If you are worried someone will find out wher you live based upon your images… well… if that is that important to you start stop your sequence where you want… go full “James Bond mode”…

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Thanks for your replies. It is not that much about where I live, but more about habits etc. Some random examples I can think of: your boss knows you had an interview at another company, burglars know you’re on holidays, getting tracked for advertisement, insurance company sees that you’re doing some dangerous sport… (Facebook etc. is no better, but then it is more obvious that you’re sharing this information)

Maybe in the end it is a good thing as it helps in not having too much useless data uploaded (e.g. the same road every day).

On the other hand it might be of interest to Mapillary to provide some kind of anonymizer to get more images.

Anyway, now I know what I can do if I’d like to upload images, thanks !

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For holiday images (to mapillary, but in general also) … upload them when you’re back from holiday… no burglar trouble :wink:

Uploading imagery everyday form work to home… I’dd tend to suggest no to do that at all… maybe once a month or quarter may be useful?

Uploading imagery from skying and such… well…insurance can’t prevent you from doing that can they?

Good point about burglars :wink:
My examples were just some possible issues I could think of, I’m just generally not comfortable with sharing my location history with everybody.
Insurances can’t prevent you from doing whatever, but they can refuse to insure you (e.g. if you want to switch for another insurance company). They wouldn’t probably use this data, but what if they do…

When there is a sequence of images where or when you shouldn’t be there… well, I think it best not to upload them (better not create the sequence at all I guess :wink: )

I publish on Facebook / twitter (and Mapillary) that of which I don’t see any problem a perfect stranger would see it… I think that is the best approach…

PS: I wonder… will this post bite me in the butt a few years from now? :face_with_raised_eyebrow:

We just have to remember that we’re not only sharing a picture, but series of pictures including precise time and location.
And I agree, in some cases it is better not to take pictures at all.

Future will tell :wink: (but I hope not !)

This is just my opinion as I don’t know about the technical requirements, but I hope that Mapillary will include some anonymizer functionality in the future as it doesn’t seem necessary to link a sequence to a user for it to work.

As it stands now, I don’t see the need for that… when the time comes that Mapillary gets used more widely that may need to become more necessary… but that’ll be a hurdle to take then… no need (in my opinion) to do that now.

Totally agree with you. I’d contribute a lot more if I wouldn’t have to worry about this.

EDIT: Meant to be a reply to the original post.

@eesger, the need will never be there until it’s too late. One can argue that statistically you don’t need a seat belt. The issue isn’t the need, the issue is the consequences.

The world is a weird place, full of people with psychological problems. It’s only a matter of time before it happens. And whomever it happens to, life will be hell.

I don’t mean to imply y’ll are bad or wrong for not having the feature. I can only understand what y’ll are up against when it comes to resource constraints vs priorities, etc. I only mean to try to be that pesky reminder that you’re looking at the situation wrong if you think it’s about the probability. It’s about the consequences, not the (mis)percieved likelihood.

This is an example of how crazy things can get. Mary Lucia’s life was made a living hell. It’s something to keep in mind. I’d love to be able to have a few dozen other users contributions all mixed and matched with mine and appearing as some random fake account. Much more importantly, someone out in the community’s going to need it for more scary reasons.

She said that the stalking began when a listener, Kelly, sent an email saying his dog had died. When she sent him an email expressing her sympathies, he continued to write back and soon she was greeted with various packages at her work, including five pounds of raw meat, a photo of a masked man and some children’s toys.

“I would dread going to work to see what horror had been dropped off,” she said.

I hope that someone scrutinizes my pictures and sees what I do. I prefer not to tell it. The person has to do an effort. It is only 7500000 pictures.

Good question, couple of points spring to mind:
First : not sure we’d want to see sequences of people breaking the law, or cheating on be it insurance or anyone with whom they have a contractual relationship which ‘prohibits’ particular behaviour? Then :
1/ avoid taking pictures which include yourself reflected in any mirroring / reflective surface -such as a shop window- even though your picture / number plate ought to be blurred;
2/ no need to upload / track that final couple of miles just outside your place of work / home / any friends 'n family - if you want to document new features there just drive the stretch from well before till well beyond the feature; weekends away and holidays were already mentioned
3/ passing any ANPR cameras, and any speed / red light cams while breaking the law, will allow agencies to correlate the vehicle on their footage with your track, thus connect your true identity to your Mapillary one; as will in some instances your wifi / GSM sim card signal.
4/ obviously avoid uploading sequences when going for a better job interview, and be upfront about activities excluded for insurance purposes;
In short : when recording for Mapillary act in a way that would be expected from any decent citizen, keep yourself to the law and respect others; that includes stopping and offering help if you spot any accident / emergency and are one of the first on the scene.
Hope this helps?

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@koninklijke gives some very good points, I want to add a few more:

  • Even if usernames were hidden or randomised, there are quite a few aspects of your images that can be used for fingerprinting. Image resolution, metadata, picture quality, visible window damages/dirt, refraction of light under certain angles, reflected objects, will all indicate sequences were made by the same user.
  • By all means, include you home in your sequences. There is nothing that scream more “this is where I live!” than a white spot in an otherwise well-covered city map. Include you home, but don’t stop in front of it.
  • Hiding or randomising timestamps has also been a regular privacy request, but it is very simple to determine the time and day by looking at shadows, public transport, regular services like garbage trucks, etc.

In short, you’re not forced to put photos on Mapillary. Use your own judgement and responsibility on what you want to publish, don’t rely on technical solutions for privacy.

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Good reminder, thanks. Noise patterns of the camera sensor can also be used.

In the current state, it is very easy to get the location history of someone.
By some anonymization it’ll just make the work (much) more difficult to someone who would like to get this history. Some random person won’t probably be able to get the history, but I’m sure the tech giants / governments will (if the data is of enough interest to them). And when they have this data and they get compromised your history is available again.

In fact I was thinking of Mapillary mapping as something I could always do while traveling, but it should rather be seen as some dedicated mapping sessions.

As a sidenote, wanting privacy doesn’t mean one does illegal or immoral stuff. If you don’t share your e-mails, does it mean you’re hiding illegal stuff ? (you can search the web for “privacy nothing to hide” for more information)

I don’t know the current state of AI, but I would think that AI software already now can tell how likely it is that two sets of photos (two Mapillary sequences) are taken by the same camera.